Employment officials discuss medical pot use in workplace

Hartford

As medical marijuana use in Connecticut grows, it’s raising questions about how to handle marijuana use in the office. The topic is handled differently now than in the past. 

Before, if you tested positive for pot, the boss could fire you. It’s very different now, if you have a prescription for it. Thursday morning’s workshop in Wethersfield was designed to help employers deal with the changing landscape.

Medicinal marijuana is legal in Connecticut, and becoming legal in more and more places, but what about the workplace? 

“You cannot use on the job site,” according to Stephen Lattanzio, an attorney with the Connecticut Department of Labor. “This is for the people who need it medically and take it the night before and can perform all their normal functions perfectly.”

It can still become a tricky issue for employers and employees. That is why the Connecticut Employment and Training Commission and the Department of Labor are teaming up to find the balance between employer policies and the use of permitted medical marijuana with a series of workshops.

(WTNH/Kevin Pflaumer)

“Using it at work, or using it just prior, or even more importantly, using it and being impaired and going to work, that’s where the problem is,” explained Dr. Matthew Lundquist, the director of occupational medicine at Middlesex Hospital.

The problem is also determining how to measure impairment. The law does not spell it out.

“It doesn’t tell you how to show that someone is under the influence or show someone is intoxicated by the drug,” Ronald Ing, Director of Human Resources and Information Technology of Stratford. “Unlike alcohol, where there are specific procedures that can show that, with marijuana there are not.”

Workers wonder if they have to tell their employers that they take medical pot.

“No they do not,” answered Dr. Lundquist,”but certainly if they are going through a drug test, it is going to come up.”

If prescribed medicinal marijuana is detected in a drug test, however, the employer cannot refuse to hire them. 

“Yes, there was a case where there was a pre-employment test done and the employer said, ‘We’re not going to hire you,'” explained Ing. “It went to the courts and the courts determined that you couldn’t hold that against them.”

Unless the employee is involved with interstate transport, or some other job regulated by the federal government, because the federal government considers any pot use illegal. For everyone else, it comes down to whether you can do your job safely. That’s what employers need to determine.

“And request what’s called a fit for duty exam to make sure the person can actually do the job safely without being a danger to themselves or others in the workplace,” Lundquist said.

The bottom line for medical marijuana users is, no matter the medical benefits you get, if using makes you a danger to yourself or others on the job, you can still get fired.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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