It’s been almost 10 years since the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) passed, but for many Michigan employers, the law still presents several questions.
Balancing drug-free workplace policies with the specifications of the MMMA hasn’t been easy.
The MMMA can be confusing, but thankfully, there are a few solid facts that employers can keep in mind about the MMMA nearly 10 years in.
Here are four things to know about medical marijuana in the Michigan workplace for Michigan employers.
1) YOU CAN TEST EMPLOYEES FOR MARIJUANA USE.
Nowhere in the MMMA does it give any parameters for drug testing in the workplace. Michigan employers like you have the freedom to test applicants and candidates as you always have and can test for the use of marijuana. (Note: this includes unionized employees.)
2) YOU CAN TERMINATE EMPLOYEES WHO TEST POSITIVE FOR MARIJUANA ON A DRUG TEST EVEN IF THEY HAVE A MEDICAL MARIJUANA CARD.
On November 24, 2009, Joseph Casias, an employee at a Wal-Mart store in Michigan, was fired after he failed a drug test when marijuana was found in his system. Because this violated Wal-Mart’s drug use policy, the store terminated Casias.
But Casias met the definition of “a qualifying patient who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card” per the MMMA. He was issued a registry card by the Michigan Department of Health in June 2009 and began using marijuana for medical reasons at that time.
In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Wal-Mart on Casias’s behalf. In the end, both a U.S. District Judge and the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the employer’s side. As Sarah Lehr wrote in a Lansing State Journal article about this subject, “The Sixth Circuit has interpreted the word ‘business’ as a modifier referring to licensing boards or bureaus.”
What this means, in laymen’s terms, is that private Michigan employers can terminate employees who test positive for marijuana in their system even if they are legally permitted to according to the MMMA. Employees are not protected against termination by this law.
3) MARIJUANA REGISTRY IDENTIFICATION CARD-HOLDING MICHIGAN EMPLOYEES WHO ARE TERMINATED ONLY BECAUSE THEY TESTED POSITIVE FOR MARIJUANA USE IN A DRUG TEST DO QUALIFY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS.
In the October 2014 case of Braska vs. Challenge Manufacturing Company, the Michigan Court of Appeals sided with the claimant, Rick Braska, who was terminated from Challenge Manufacturing Company when he tested positive for marijuana in 2010.
Braska had applied for unemployment benefits after his termination, only to be denied by the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, who ruled that he did not qualify for benefits. The court concluded that denying benefits that an “improper” penalty for medical marijuana use.
As a result, Michigan workers who are terminated because they use medical marijuana legally qualify for unemployment benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA).
4) AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL, MARIJUANA IS STILL CLASSED AS AN ILLEGAL CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE.
This makes things a bit tricky. Despite states’ differing views and laws about medical and recreational marijuana, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers marijuana to be a Schedule I controlled substance. Other drugs that are considered Schedule I controlled substances include heroin, ecstasy, and LSD.
How does this affect Michiganders? Well, the state of Michigan utilizes federal standards for its drug testing policies, so civil service workers can also be terminated for testing positive for marijuana on a drug test even if they have a registered marijuana card.
Medical marijuana in the workplace is something that we will continue to have to adjust to and contemplate, especially as public and state views about marijuana continue to change.
We’d be happy to discuss how AMJ Staffing has worked with employers and candidates in the past while minding the new medical marijuana law in the Mitten State. Just get in touch!