The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act was passed by voters in 2010 by a narrow margin of just over 50 percent. Since then, more than 200,000 people have participated in the program, which was created to help people with qualifying medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, seizures, chronic pain, persistent muscle spasms, Crohn’s disease, and PTSD.
In 2020, a referendum was passed that legalized recreational marijuana. The Smart and Safe Arizona Act (SSAA), also referred to as “Prop 207,” made it legal for adults aged 21 and older to cultivate, possess, and use marijuana.
While the use of both medicinal and recreational marijuana is now legal throughout Arizona, many people with qualifying medical conditions remain concerned that having a medical marijuana card could jeopardize their job prospects or current employment. Fortunately, Arizona has laws in place that provide job protection for individuals who have a medical marijuana card.
Medical Marijuana Laws in Arizona
Job candidates and employees in Arizona who use medical marijuana or possess a medical marijuana card have certain protections under state laws. However, to have this job protection, a person must be a registered medical marijuana cardholder. A.R.S. § 36.2804.02 outlines the process of applying for and registering a medical marijuana card in Arizona.
Employers in Arizona cannot refuse to hire, fire, or in any way, penalize a job candidate or employee because the person is a registered medical marijuana cardholder. However, there are some exceptions, including:
- If the employer would lose a licensing or monetary-related benefit under federal regulations or law if they failed to discriminate against the medical marijuana cardholder. For example, the Department of Transportation prohibits individuals from using marijuana for any reason when driving a commercial vehicle.
- If the employee uses medical marijuana on the job during work hours or on the employer’s premises, or if the employee has medical marijuana on the premises during work hours or is in possession of medical marijuana at work.
- If the employee was found to be impaired by medical marijuana on business premises or during work hours.
Establishing Impairment of Employees with Medical Marijuana Cards
Job candidates and employees can potentially be penalized if an employer determines that they are impaired at work or on the premises. However, Arizona law states that a registered qualifying patient cannot be considered to be “under the influence” of
marijuana simply because there is a presence of components or metabolites of marijuana in insufficient concentration in the body.
There is currently no law in Arizona that dictates any level of marijuana components or metabolites that establish impairment. This means that an employer cannot act only on the results of a positive drug test if an employer is a registered medical marijuana cardholder.
Maintaining an Up-to-Date Medical Marijuana Card
In Arizona, medical marijuana cards expire exactly one year after the issue date. It is the responsibility of the cardholder to ensure that their medical marijuana card does not expire as an expired identification card could result in penalties in the workplace.
Employers have access to a round-the-clock web-based verification system that is both secure and password-protected. This system allows employers to verify employees’ registry identification cards; however, an employer can only use this verification system to verify a registry identification card that an employee or applicant presents to them.
Drug Testing of Employees in Arizona
Drug testing in Arizona workplaces is regulated under the state’s Drug Testing of Employee’s Law, A.R.S. § 23, Chapter 2, Article 14. Under the Arizona Drug Testing of Employees Law, employers are protected from being sued if they act in good faith on a positive drug test and the company’s drug testing policy meets certain requirements.
Arizona law states that an employee cannot sue an employer if a drug test shows illegal drug use (even if the employee has not used drugs), the company drug policy is properly written, and the employer has reason to believe that the drug test result is valid. In this situation, A.R.S. 23-493.06 states that an employer has the right to reassign an employee in a safety sensitive job position to another position or put the employee on unpaid or paid leave.
To remove an employee from a safety sensitive job position, an employer must sincerely believe that:
- The employee has recently been using drugs, whether medicinal or recreational
- The drug could result in an impairment or reduce the employee’s job performance or ability to perform job duties
Employees who have a legitimate need for an Arizona medical marijuana card have invaluable workplace protections. However, these protections do not apply to users of recreational marijuana. All businesses reserve the right to maintain a drug-free workplace and may implement regular drug testing to ensure that employees are drug-free.
If you take a drug test and the results are positive, having a non-expired medical marijuana card can provide you with legal protection against disciplinary action. To obtain a medical marijuana card in Arizona, you must have a physician’s certification
and apply through the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). If you have a health condition that you have been treating with marijuana without a medical marijuana card, you could be at risk of losing your current employment or gaining new employment.
Restrictions that Apply to Medical Marijuana Use
While having a medical marijuana card in Arizona can prevent eligible employees from disciplinary action if they return a positive drug test, there are some restrictions that apply to the use or possession of medical marijuana in Arizona.
Under Arizona law, medical marijuana cardholders cannot smoke marijuana in any public place, including on public transportation. In addition, cardholders cannot possess marijuana in a preschool, primary, or secondary school, or on a school bus. Marijuana can also not be used in any correctional facility.
Protections for employees with medical marijuana cards do not alter any existing laws that prohibit the navigation, operation, or being in physical control of a motor vehicle, motorboat, or aircraft while under the influence of marijuana. This means that a person with a medical marijuana card can legally be turned away from jobs that require the operation of heavy machinery or equipment that has been designated as “safety sensitive.”
Speak with an Employment Lawyer in Arizona
Employers in Arizona cannot discriminate against an employee for his or her registered medical marijuana use. If you believe that you have been discriminated against or retaliated against in the workplace due to having a medical marijuana card, speak with the expert employment lawyers at JacksonWhite today. Send us a message online or call us at (480) 464-1111.