NEW LAW: Missouri Legalizes Medicinal Marijuana

On November 6, 2018, voters in Missouri passed Amendment 2 (the Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative) which legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in Missouri.  With the passage of this new law, Missouri becomes the 33rd state to legalize medicinal marijuana.

Under the new law, individuals with qualifying conditions* will be able to obtain permission from their physician to legally use marijuana for medicinal purposes.  However, while medicinal marijuana use will be legal, the law is clear that employers will still be able to enforce their drug-free workplace policies prohibiting employees from working under the influence of marijuana and will be able to discipline employees for violating that policy.

In addition, the new law does not prohibit employers from drug testing potential or current employees. However, in drug testing these persons, employers should be cautioned that drug testing for marijuana does not test for current impairment due to marijuana.  Available drug tests only test for the presence of THB in the system, which can remain for weeks after one use.  Therefore, it is recommended that, at least for current employees, employers train their managers to recognize the telltale signs of marijuana impairment: red eyes, lethargic demeanor, lack of coordination, confusion and lack of focus, etc. and drug test individuals based on a reasonable suspicion that they are currently under the influence.

The new law will take effect once the election results are certified by the Secretary of State’s office.  Once that happens, the Missouri Department of Health must draft regulations to implement the law, which must be completed by June of 2019.  Then, depending on the existence of any additional administrative requirements, the first prescriptions might not be available until mid to late 2019.

In the meantime, Missouri employers should review the new law and verify their handbook policies take the new law into account,  in addition, managers and supervisors should be trained on how to identify marijuana impairment.

*  Qualifying medical conditions include specific conditions or symptoms related to, or side-effects from, the treatment of cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, intractable migraines unresponsive to other treatment, and any terminal illness, as well as a litany of chronic medical conditions and psychiatric disorders such as Crohn’s disease, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.