FAQ: Can I maintain a drug-free policy in my office?

August 13, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Practice Management 

With the ongoing implementation of California's Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act of 2015 and passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) in 2016, physician offices may increasingly find themselves unsure of whether they are required to make accommodations for employees' use of marijuana, either for medical or recreational purposes.

California law does not require any accommodation of the use of medical cannabis on the property or premises of any place of employment or during the hours of employment. Further, the California Supreme Court, in Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications (2008) 42 Cal.4th 920, concluded that an employer did not violate either the Fair Employment and Housing Act by discharging a recently-hired employee who failed a pre-employment drug test because of his use of medical cannabis outside of the workplace. The Court determined that nothing in the text or history of the California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996 suggested that the voters intended for the initiative that legalized medical cannabis to impact the respective rights and obligations of employers and employees.

Although AUMA legalized recreational use of cannabis for adults, it does not change an employer’s rights and obligations to maintain a drug-free workplace, nor does it require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transport, sale or growth of cannabis in the workplace. AUMA also does not prevent employers from having policies that prohibit the use of marijuana by employees and prospective employees.

For more information on AUMA, see CMA’s “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act: Frequently Asked Questions.” Physicians can also find information on performing drug and alcohol tests on employees in CMA On-Call document #6100, “Employer Obligations Regarding Drug and Alcohol Use in the Workplace.” CMA On-Call document #3209, “Medical Cannabis,” discusses the laws enacted to control and regulate the use of cannabis in California.

CMA On-Call documents are available free to members in the CMA at health law library. Nonmembers can purchase documents for $2 per page in the CMA bookstore.

For input regarding a specific circumstance, physician offices should consult an experienced labor and employment attorney.

Contact: CMA legal information line, (800) 786-4262 or legalinfo@cmadocs.org


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