The Trend Towards Legalizing Marijuana Raises Legal Issues for Employers

The Trend Towards Legalizing Marijuana Raises Legal Issues for Employers

February 23, 2017

The legalization of marijuana has gone from a pipe dream (sorry) to reality for some states in recent years. Employers, especially those with workers in different states, should be aware of the new legal ramifications for a social and political issue that will get plenty of scrutiny in the future.

Although the legalization of marijuana seems a recent development, there has been a trend toward acceptance of the drug for some time. In the U.S., decriminalization of marijuana started in 70’s and 11 states had decriminalization laws in the books by 1978. Medical cannabis was legalized in California in 1996. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana.

Currently, 28 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing marijuana in some form—with 8 states allowing legal recreational use.

In Michigan, the use of medical marijuana became legal in 2008, making Michigan the thirteenth state to legalize medical marijuana. Employers can find information on the law in their state at a medical marijuana website, which outlines the state’s Medical Cannabis Program.

For employers, the new medical cannabis law raises several issues and questions, and it may take a few court challenges to really resolve some of them. the Michigan Medical Marijuana Initiative “decriminalized the cultivation and use of medical marijuana by seriously ill individuals who have obtained a doctor’s approval.” A Michigan Medical Marijuana Program participant cannot be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits due to a positive marijuana test. However, a participant can be disqualified from unemployment for ingesting or being under the influence of marijuana while in the workplace.


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