The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that those who use marijuana for medical purposes are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore, under California employment law, the disciplining or termination of employees engaging in marijuana use does not violate the ADA.
This employment law came to light after a recent case involving a woman, who has a prescription for medical marijuana, filed a lawsuit after several marijuana dispensaries were shut down. She claimed that shutting down these dispensaries made it difficult to obtain access to medicines that were legally prescribed. The woman, along with her co-plaintiffs, believed this was discrimination.
However, the local government agencies-the defendants--claim that the use of illegal drugs is not a protected right under the act. In other words, even those with disabilities do not have the right to access illegal drugs, even if they are used for medical purposes.
Although this case did not involve workers and their employers, this meant that employers can terminate employees for medical marijuana use in the workplace and away from the job. The employees do not have the right to file for wrongful termination if they are fired for using the drug.
Although medical marijuana is legal in California and 13 other states, the ADA is a federal law. Therefore, marijuana is not a federally legal drug. Even though one may claim that marijuana is considered medicine and it is against an employee's rights to prohibit him or her from taking that medicine, this notion only applies to medications that are legal according to federal law. In addition, the 14 states that have legalized marijuana have their own provisions on use including limits on how much marijuana one can grow and possess.
Source: Business Management Daily, "Employee using medical marijuana? Firing won't be a violation of the ADA," Aug. 18, 2012