Impact of Florida’s New Medical Marijuana Law on Employers

The Florida Medical Marijuana Legislation Initiative is the newly passed medical marijuana law in Florida, which was approved by voters in the 2016 election.

This new law allows individuals with certain “debilitating medical conditions” to use medical marijuana to treat those conditions. Included in the list of “debilitating medical conditions” are cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. In addition, individuals suffering from “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable” to this list, so long as a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would “likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient” may legally use medical marijuana.

The new law goes into effect January 3, 2017.

The impact on employers?

Under the new law, Florida employers are not required to accommodate any “on-site medical use of marijuana” in any place of employment. However, the law does not address whether employers are required to extend reasonable accommodations to medical-marijuana-using applicants or employees who happen to have the drug in their system while on duty at work or submitting to a pre-hire drug test. It is recommended that employers develop a plan to handle these situations and then enforce that plan consistently.

In addition, the law also does not address the use of drug testing (pre-employment, safety-sensitive, or reasonable suspicion) on an employee who uses medical marijuana. Current drug tests only flag whether THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is present in the individual’s system and does not determine the level of a tested individual’s impairment. This means that an individual can test positive for marijuana without being “high.” It is recommended that employers train frontline supervisors and managers will need to be more vigilant about documenting independent indications of impairment in the workplace such as unusual sleepiness, slowed perception and motor skills, and red eyes.