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Can You Get Fired for Using Weed Legally: Understanding the Law

Losing your job for legal cannabis use. 

The question is “Can You Get Fired for Using Weed Legally?” In this blog post, we will explore the intricacies of employment laws and provide insights into legal precedents and court rulings. Additionally, we’ll delve into specific employment laws in Illinois and offer guidance on finding the right employment attorney to protect your interests.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, entrepreneurs looking to start or operate a cannabis business must be well-versed in employment laws surrounding marijuana use. One common concern is whether employees can be fired for using weed legally, especially in states where recreational or medical marijuana is legal

Can You Get Fired for Using Weed Legally?

Yes, you can Get Fired for Using Weed Legally. Off-duty cannabis use requires additional legal protections to be in place, as they may not automatically be included when cannabis is legalized. Employers have the right to maintain a drug-free work environment, which means public consumption of cannabis can still be prohibited even in legal states like California. Moreover, federal laws such as the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 may require employers to implement drug-free workplace policies for federal contracts, which can limit wrongful termination claims related to cannabis use.

In some cases, employers can fire employees for off-duty medical marijuana use even if it’s legal under state law, but the potential reclassification of cannabis to Schedule III in 2024 could change that.

 

In some cases, courts have ruled that employers can fire employees for off-duty medical marijuana use even if it’s legal under state law. This is because federal law still considers marijuana illegal and therefore not protected as a lawful activity. However, with the potential reclassification of cannabis to Schedule III in 2024, these rulings could be revisited since it would acknowledge marijuana’s medicinal benefits at the federal level.

While recreational marijuana might be legal in certain states like Illinois, employers are still allowed to ban its use and possession in the workplace. This means that individuals can face termination for smoking weed even if they are not impaired on the job. If you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated due to your legal cannabis use, consult an employment attorney who specializes in plaintiff work and make sure your complaint includes all necessary elements: being an employee of the defendant; experiencing termination; having your termination linked to a protected activity; and suffering damages as a result.

Remember that corporate cannabis lawyers like myself cannot assist with individual employment cases involving fired workers due to their legal cannabis use. Seek an experienced commercial litigation attorney near you who will advocate on behalf of wrongfully terminated employees rather than representing companies defending against such claims.

Off-Duty Cannabis Use and Legal Protections

State laws protecting off-duty use vary and may require additional amendments to provide clear legal protections. While cannabis may be legal in some states, employers still have the right to enforce drug-free workplace policies and maintain a drug-free work zone. The federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 can also limit legal protections for employees using cannabis, particularly if an employer receives federal contracts. Balancing employee privacy with employer interests can be complex and often requires the expertise of a commercial litigation attorney specializing in wrongful termination cases.

Public Consumption and Drug-Free Work Zones

Implications of public consumption on employment:

Public consumption of cannabis is generally prohibited in most states, including California. This means that even if you are using it legally, walking into your job while smoking a joint could still be considered a crime. Employers may have the right to maintain a drug-free work zone and can discipline or fire employees for their cannabis use.

Creating drug-free work zones in compliance with local regulations:

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires employers to have a drug-free workplace policy in order to receive federal contracts. This means that employers must implement measures to ensure their workplaces are free from drugs, including cannabis. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in the loss of federal funding.

Addressing concerns about impairment at the workplace:

While recreational marijuana use may be legal in certain states like Illinois, employers still have the right to ban its use and possession in the workplace. They can also terminate employees who test positive for marijuana, as long as they have legitimate reasons such as impaired job performance or violation of company’s drug-free policies. Challenging wrongful termination based on legal cannabis use can be difficult unless there is evidence of discriminatory practices or lack of legitimate grounds for termination.

Impact of the Drug Free Workplace Act

Understanding the scope and applicability of the Drug-Free Workplace Act is crucial for employers and employees alike. The Act requires employers to maintain a drug-free workplace policy in order to receive federal funding. This means that even in states where cannabis is legal, employers can still enforce “zero-tolerance” policies by not hiring or by firing employees who test positive for drugs, including marijuana.

While some states have implemented laws to provide reasonable accommodation for medical marijuana users, these protections may not extend to all situations. In cases like Coats v. Dish Network, courts have ruled that an employer can legally terminate an employee for using medical marijuana outside of work hours, even with a valid prescription. Therefore, it’s important for both employers and employees to consider the potential implications of using cannabis in relation to their employment.

For “safety-sensitive” positions or jobs that involve operating heavy machinery or other tasks with inherent safety risks, drug test are required. Even if cannabis use is legal in your state or you have a valid prescription as a medical marijuana user, you may still be subject to mandatory drug testing as part of your job requirements. It’s essential to understand the regulations surrounding drug test policies within your industry or occupation.

Legal Precedents and Court Rulings:

In the case of Coats v. Dish Network, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an employer could fire an employee for using medical marijuana, even if the employee was using it off-duty – with a valid prescription. Similar court rulings have been made in California, Oregon, and Washington regarding the legality of firing employees for off-duty cannabis use. However, there is potential for these rulings to be reversed if cannabis is rescheduled at the federal level in 2024.

Coats v. Dish Network Case in Colorado

In the Coats v. Dish Network case, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an employer can terminate an employee for using medical marijuana, even if it is done outside of working hours with a valid prescription. The court held that because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, it does not qualify as a “lawful” activity protected by state law. This ruling has been echoed in other states such as California, Oregon, and Washington.

This case highlights the implications for employees who use weed legally outside of work. Even in states where cannabis is legalized for medicinal or recreational purposes, employers may still have the right to enforce drug-free workplace policies and discipline or terminate employees who test positive for marijuana.

Both the employee and employer made legal arguments in this case. Brandon Coats argued that his off-duty conduct was protected under Colorado’s “off-duty conduct” law which prohibits firing employees engaging in lawful activities outside of work. However, the court ruled against him stating that federal illegality overrides state protection laws.

Overall, this case sets a precedent regarding employment laws related to legal cannabis use and raises questions about whether similar rulings will be made by courts in other states. Additionally, there is potential for these cases to be revisited if cannabis rescheduling occurs at the federal level in 2024.

Similar Court Rulings in California, Oregon, and Washington

  • Courts in California, Oregon, and Washington have echoed the ruling of Coats v. Dish Network in Colorado.
  • These courts have held that employers can fire employees for using marijuana, even if it is legal under state law.
  • The legality of marijuana use under federal law has been a key factor in these rulings.

Considerations for Employers Operating in These States:

  • Employers should be aware that they may have the right to maintain a drug-free workplace policy.
  • Federal roadblocks, such as the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 or federal contracts, can impact wrongful termination actions related to cannabis use.
  • With potential upcoming changes to cannabis scheduling at the federal level, these court rulings could be revisited and overturned.

Potential Reversal of Court Rulings with Cannabis Rescheduling

  • Effects of cannabis rescheduling on federal laws regarding employment termination:
  • Rescheduling cannabis could potentially lead to changes in federal laws that affect employment termination due to marijuana use.
  • Employers may have to reconsider their drug-free workplace policies and adapt them accordingly.
  • ‘Safe harbor’ provisions that protect employees from being fired for legal marijuana use:
  • With the potential reversal of court rulings, safe harbor provisions could be established to protect employees who are using marijuana legally.
  • These provisions can provide a level of security for employees by preventing unjust terminations due to legal cannabis use.
  • Challenges and potential solutions related to conflicting state and federal laws:
  • Conflicting state and federal laws create challenges for both employers and employees when it comes to cannabis use in the workplace.
  • Resolving these conflicts will require clear guidelines, open communication, and cooperation between state and federal authorities.

Employment Laws in Illinois for Cannabis Use:

In Illinois, employers are allowed to ban the use and possession of marijuana in the workplace. This means that employees can be fired for smoking weed, even if they are not under the influence or impaired at work. Employers must have a legitimate reason for firing an employee who tests positive for marijuana, such as impairment or job performance being affected. If fired for cannabis use, individuals may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit but should consult an employment attorney specializing in plaintiff work.

Ban on Cannabis Use and Possession in the Workplace

  • Employers have the right to maintain a drug-free workplace, which may include banning the use and possession of both psychoactive and nonpsychoactive cannabis.
  • Federal laws, such as the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, can prevent employees from winning wrongful termination lawsuits based on legal state cannabis use.
  • Cannabis use may still be considered illegal under federal law and not protected as a lawful activity in some states.
  • Courts in several states have ruled that employers can fire employees for off-duty medical marijuana use, even if they have a valid prescription.

Conditions for Firing Employees for Marijuana Use

Zero-Tolerance Policies and Employee Drug Testing: Employers have the right to maintain a drug-free workplace and enforce zero-tolerance policies, even in states where cannabis use is legal. This means that employees can be disciplined or fired for marijuana use, regardless of whether it was consumed on or off-duty. Random drug testing is often used as a tool to detect cannabis use and determine grounds for termination.

Performance Impairment as Grounds for Termination: If an employee’s job performance is affected by their marijuana use, employers may have legitimate grounds for termination. This could include being visibly impaired at work or failing to meet job requirements due to marijuana consumption. In such cases, employers are within their rights to take disciplinary action and terminate employment.

Safety Concerns and Liability Issues: Safety concerns are paramount in the workplace, especially in industries where employees operate heavy machinery or engage in hazardous activities. Employers may argue that allowing employees to use marijuana poses safety risks and increases liability issues if accidents occur on the job. As a result, they might choose to fire employees who test positive for marijuana, regardless of impairment levels.

Remember that laws regarding cannabis vary from state to state, so it’s important for entrepreneurs operating in the industry to familiarize themselves with specific local regulations before making any decisions about employee weed usage policies.

Filing a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit in Illinois

Proving discrimination based on legal marijuana usage can be challenging, as federal laws still classify marijuana as illegal. However, with the potential reclassification of cannabis to Schedule III in 2024, these cases may be revisited and overturned. Illinois employers are allowed to ban marijuana use in the workplace and can terminate employees who test positive for marijuana. To file a wrongful termination lawsuit in Illinois, you must prove that your termination was discriminatory or not based on a legitimate reason.

Challenging an employer’s adherence to employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements is another avenue for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in Illinois. If you were terminated despite fulfilling the terms of your employment contract or collective bargaining agreement, there may be grounds for legal action.

Finding the Right Employment Attorney

Finding the right employment attorney is crucial when dealing with wrongful termination cases. Look for attorneys who specialize in plaintiff representation, as they will have the expertise and experience needed to fight for your rights. Avoid attorneys suggested by the company, as they may not have your best interests at heart. Remember to provide detailed information about your termination and gather evidence that supports your case.

Choosing an Attorney for Plaintiff Representation

When choosing an attorney for plaintiff representation in a case involving cannabis use and employment, it is crucial to find someone with expertise in both employment law and cannabis regulations. Researching attorneys who specialize in these areas will ensure that you have the best possible legal representation. Additionally, evaluating their experience and success rate in similar cases will give you confidence that the lawyer can effectively advocate for your rights as a plaintiff.

Avoiding Attorneys Suggested by the Company

Recognizing potential conflicts of interest is crucial when choosing legal representation. Attorneys suggested by the company may have a bias towards protecting the company’s interests rather than your rights as an employee. Seeking independent legal advice ensures that your rights are protected and gives you a fair chance in any legal disputes with your employer. Additionally, considering confidentiality issues is important when selecting legal representation. It’s essential to choose an attorney who will prioritize keeping your information confidential and not share it with the company or anyone else without your consent.

About the Author

Tom Howard, a Cannabis Industry Lawyer and Consultant. Mr. Howard has practiced commercial law since 2008 when he graduated from law school and got his Series 7 & 66 Securities licenses. He pivoted to practicing litigation for financial institutions before helping cannabis teams form, capitalize, and get licensed. He has concentrated on the cannabis business since Illinois legalized it in 2019. He won licenses for clients in Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Missouri and has gotten into lotteries in Ohio, Maryland, and Maine. He became a Certified Ganjier in 2021. He chairs the ISBA’s section council for Cannabis Law in 2023.

Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard

Licensed to practice since 2008, Thomas Howard has represented numerous financial institutions in litigation to enforce their security interests.
Homegrown Cannabis Co's Cannabis Seeds
Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard

Licensed to practice since 2008, Thomas Howard has represented numerous financial institutions in litigation to enforce their security interests.

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