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Colorado's Great Debate: How Do Employers Handle Medical Pot Use?

The following are points discussed in a recent Denver Post editorial, and the post is meant to merely include a timely issue to Coloradans on this blog. Colorado is sort of ahead of the game compared to the rest of the country regarding the legalization of medical marijuana. As long as residents are using the drug according to state law, then they are protected from facing any damaging drug charges.

With any new legislation, legal and ethical conflicts arise because the community and legal system haven't had enough time to fully understand the changes, and circumstances often come up that law makers did not prepare for. Such is the case with deciding how much say employers should have about their workers using medical marijuana.

Some argue that employers shouldn't be legally able to hire or fire employees based on legal marijuana use now that the state has legalized such practices. Also argued is that discriminating in employment due to medical marijuana use would be illegal because that would most likely weed out (pardon the pun) disabled workers who are protected under the law.

Those who believe that employers should have the right to discriminate based on marijuana use think that the issue is a matter of workers' safety and overall job performance. For example, if someone has to drive a vehicle or manage any other complex and dangerous equipment, then marijuana use would put that worker and anyone around them at risk of injury or death.

As far as job performance, whether the effects of marijuana significantly decrease the quality of someone's work is yet to be thoroughly studied and, therefore, reported to the public. Some employers worry, however, that the drug use could result in workers who are less alert on the job.

This is definitely a hot topic, not only in Colorado, but around the country. More specific language will have to be included in the legalization law, and we will update you when such action takes place. But what do you think about the combination of medical marijuana and the workplace? Should employers be able to discriminate based on whether a worker uses the drug for medical purposes? 

Resource

The Denver Post, Editorial: Give employers final say on pot (8/31/2010)

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