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New Court Decision Protects Connecticut Employees Who Legally Use Medical Marijuana

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Connecticut businesses are facing some interesting challenges around how to deal with employees who use legal medical marijuana.

A recent federal district court case in Connecticut may help clarify guidelines for employers when it comes to marijuana use.

In the case, an offer of employment was rescinded when a drug test came back positive, even though the person disclosed she was a medical marijuana certificate holder. Judge Jeffrey Meyer ruled that under the Connecticut Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA), employees with medical marijuana certificates who use the drug after hours and are not impaired during work hours cannot not be discriminated against.

But the problem, said Mark Soycher, human resource counsel for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, is that there are no definitive tests for measuring impairment.

“The test typically done for use of marijuana, and other drugs, most commonly is urinalysis,” Soycher said. “There’s not either the technology, chemistry, or data to evaluate whether the byproducts of marijuana in someone’s urine reflects impairment or just recent use.”

And because traces of the drug can remain in a person’s body for a number of weeks there’s really no way to tell how recently a person used cannabis. For some companies, that only complicates the problem since medical marijuana certificate holders who test positive in a drug screening are also protected under PUMA.

Attorney Meredith Diette of Berchem Moses PC represents employers. She said she asks her clients one simple question.

“Is it affecting their job? If it’s not affecting their job performance then I’m not really sure you should care,” Diette said. “As an employer, all you care about is that your work is getting done as well as it’s ever been getting done. That’s what I need you to focus on, not whether or not this person, when he goes home, takes marijuana.”

Diette said it’s more complicated when it comes to workers with safety-sensitive jobs. But she said medical marijuana is a new area of law and how it affects employers is still developing.

Meanwhile, eight new medical conditions were recently added to the state's list of those that qualify for the medical marijuana program, bringing the total to 30 for adults and eight for patients under the age of 18.

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