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Use of Medical Marijuana Not A Condition Requiring Reasonable Accommodation

Using medical marijuana doesn’t constitute a disability requiring reasonable accommodations, the Oregon Supreme Court decided earlier this month. In Emerald Steel Fabricators v. Bureau of Labor Indus., the S.Ct. held in a 5-2 decision that the federal Controlled Substances Act trumps the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. In other words, employers are not required to make accommodations for those using medical marijuana and they may fire workers who test positive for marijuana, even if they have a medical marijuana card.

Under the ADA, employers are required to make an effort to reasonably accommodate your disability. This may be something simple like changing your start time or moving your workspace. If your employer fails to make the accommodation, then you may be able to file a claim of discrimination under the ADA.

Here, the Oregon Supreme Court joined with the California and Washington Supreme Courts in determining that medical marijuana usage is not a disability requiring a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

This issue arose when a medical marijuana user who was working as a temporary drill press operator was being considered for a permanent position. Because the new position required drug testing, the employee told his supervisor that he was a registered medical marijuana user and used marijuana several times a day when off duty. Without discussion of alternatives, the employee was fired a week later.

The employee then filed a complaint alleging discrimination in violation of the anti-discrimination laws and the Medical Marijuana Act.

An administrative law judge found that the company failed to “reasonably accommodate” the employee’s disability. The state court of appeals affirmed, but the state Supreme Court determined that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act was not enforceable because it is an “obstacle to the accomplishment” of the intent of the federal controlled substances act – i.e. controlling illegal drug usage.

Georgia does not currently allow medical marijuana usage. However, many situations do arise where an employer must make a reasonable effort to accommodate your medical condition. If you have questions regarding when an employer must make a reasonable accommodation, or any other question regarding the ADA or other employment matter, please contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, LLC, a Georgia employment law firm dedicated to protecting individual’s employment rights.

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