Pennsylvania Passes Medical Marijuana Law
Posted: April 26, 2016
Pennsylvania has joined the ever growing list of states with laws allowing for and protecting the use of medical marijuana. The Pennsylvania law, Medical Marijuana Act, allows individuals to use medical marijuana to help treat serious medical conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism. Additionally, individuals who are terminally ill may also use medical marijuana.
Lawful and Unlawful Use
The Department of Health of the Commonwealth is responsible for implementing and administering the program, which allows medical marijuana organizations to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana. In order to lawfully use the substance, an individual must receive a certification and valid identification card. Identification cards expire on an annual basis unless the practitioner determines the marijuana use is only needed for a set period of time. Individuals who receive an identification card must notify the Department within 10 days of changing a name or address.
Medical marijuana may only be dispensed by pill, oil, topical forms (gel, creams and ointments), tincture, liquid or a form medically appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization. Unless otherwise provided in the regulations, no dry leaf or plant form of marijuana may be considered lawful. Further, it is unlawful to smoke marijuana, incorporate it into edible form (unless it’s done to aid ingestion of medical marijuana by patient), grow without a permit or without authorization, or dispense from dispensary unless a permit received.
Medical marijuana users may not perform certain employment tasks such as in a position that involves heights or confined spaces (such as mining) while under the influence. Further, employers may prohibit medical marijuana users from performing any task the employer deems to be life-threatening to either the individual or any of the employer’s employees while under the influence of medical marijuana. Likewise, employers may prohibit an individual from performing any duty that could result in a public health or safety risk while under the influence. These prohibitions are not considered adverse employment decisions even if it results in financial harm for the patient.
Under the Act, employers may not discharge, threaten, refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee solely on the basis of such employee’s status as a medical marijuana user. However, employers are not required to make any accommodation of the use of medical marijuana on the property or premises of any place of employment. Moreover, employers may discipline an employee for being under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace or for working while under the influence of medical marijuana when the employee’s conduct falls below the standard of care normally accepted for the position. Finally, nothing in the Act requires an employer to commit any act that would place the employer or any person acting on its behalf in violation of Federal law.
As outlined above, the Pennsylvania law does outline numerous exceptions for employers in terms of workplace accommodation and tolerance. However, given the complicated patchwork of medical (and recreational) marijuana laws around the country, employers are encouraged to revisit their workplace drug policies with qualified legal counsel.