- D. H. Reilly
An Alabama Marijuana Card Will Let You Legally Buy and Use Cannabis. But is Your Job Safe?
Is you job protected when you have a marijuana card in the state of Alabama?
With SB 46 having only recently made medical cannabis legal for Alabamans who get an Alabama Marijuana Card, there are still a lot of people uncertain about the actual content of the law.
One of the questions we have been hearing the most from Yellowhammer State residents is: “Can I still get fired for using medical marijuana if I have a marijuana card?”
Technically, yes. But there are some nuances that are worth examining. When you look at the overall trends in public perception, employers’ standards, and the law, it seems another corner is being turned in the story of medical marijuana.
Alabama is an At-Will State
It is important to remember that Alabama is an at-will employment state, meaning you can legally quit your job for any reason, and your employer can legally terminate you for any reason.
Although employees are protected at the Federal level against employment discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other protected categories, Alabama, like other at-will states, doesn’t have any restrictions on employee terminations..
As it says very plainly and directly on the Alabama Department of Labor website, “The State of Alabama does not have any termination laws.”
But I Want to Use Medical Marijuana to Treat My Disability. Doesn’t the ADA Protect Me?
Many people with disabilities that are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act have conditions that qualify them to receive medical marijuana. Those individuals may then assume that they’d be protected from termination for marijuana use by the ADA, but they’d be wrong.
The ADA is a Federal law, and at the Federal level all marijuana use, medical or otherwise, is prohibited.
The United States still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning the Federal government sees it as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
So there is no protection at the federal level, and Alabama is an at-will employment state. That means that unless SB 46 specifically said that medical marijuana patients could not be fired based on their use of the medicine, then yes, your employer could fire you for being a medical marijuana user.
Well SB 46 does specifically address employment, but it isn’t to protect employees.
SB 46, Medical Marijuana, and State Employment Law
State Legislators addressed employment in SB 46, but they did so to explicitly state that the law did not protect patients from termination based on their use of medical marijuana.
The text of SB 46 explains that legislators thought “It is important to balance the needs of employers to have a strong functioning workforce with the needs of employees who will genuinely benefit from using cannabis for a medical use in a manner that makes the employee a productive employee.”
And apparently they concluded that the right balance meant siding entirely with employers, because the law does not require them “to permit, accommodate, or allow the use of medical cannabis, or to modify any job or working conditions of any employee who engages in the use of medical cannabis or for any reason seeks to engage in the use of medical cannabis.”
In fact, there is even a minor, subtle incentive in SB 46 for employers not to permit medical marijuana use by their employees. The law states that it in no way alters or affects the state’s Drug-free Workplace Program, a program that offers a discount on employers’ workers’ compensation contributions if those employers enforce prohibitions on certain substances. One of those substances is cannabinoids, meaning that employers who do allow their employees to use medical marijuana are leaving a small amount of money on the table.
Now the Good News
The good news here is that SB 46 leaves it to employers to decide what their workplace policy is on marijuana use.
In other states where medical marijuana markets have already been established, a trend has begun to emerge whereby employers are permitting their employees to seek relief through medical marijuana.
The most prominent example of this trend is obviously Amazon, who recently announced that they will no longer test employees for marijuana use but only for impairment on the job. In other words, they’re treating marijuana like alcohol. Amazon has even gone so far as to encourage legalization at the Federal level.
It’s important to note that Federal, transportation, and law enforcement/safety employees are subject to drug tests regardless of patient status—even in states that offer protections for medical marijuana users. For example, Amazon will continue to prohibit use among employees whose positions subject them to Federal Department of Transportation regulations.
Great. Sign Me up for My Medical Marijuana Card, and I’ll Assume My Employer is Fine With it
What? No, that’s a terrible idea.
Look, for now (more on that later), medical marijuana patients are at the mercy of their employers. Yes, more and more employers are coming around on medical marijuana, but you can’t just assume yours will be one of them.
Consult your employers’ drug policy to learn where you stand. If they’re one of the more enlightened companies that is more concerned with how you do your job than what you do when you’re not working, well then mazel tov. There is nothing preventing you from seeking relief with medical marijuana.
But if they’re not one of those employers, if your employer is continuing to enforce a policy of forbidding medical marijuana, then you may need to forgo the benefits of medical marijuana until the landscape changes.
And the Medical Marijuana Landscape is Always Changing!
Before 2012, medical marijuana was illegal in all states. As of 2021, it has been legalized in some form in 36 states.
In November of 2019, a mere seven years after legalization efforts had begun to pay off, Pew Research found that two-thirds of Americans supported legalizing medical marijuana.
And in April of 2021, Pew Research found that number is now 91%. In less than two years, support for medical marijuana among Americans jumped about 25%!
Think of the incredible amount of change we’ve seen in less than a decade of legal medical marijuana. There is no predicting what will change next, but all of the evidence points towards expanded legalization and rights for patients.
Your employer may not tolerate medical marijuana use now, but will they in the future? All signs point to yes.
The Popularity of Medical Marijuana Cannot be Denied
With 91% of Americans supporting the legalization of medical marijuana, and 36 states responding to that popularity, it’s highly unlikely that the remaining states, the Federal government, and employers will be able to resist this momentum.
We mentioned earlier that many employers have already started to embrace, or at least tolerate, medical marijuana use among their employees. One reason for that new approach is the reality that employees are going to be hard to find going forward if employers don’t start recognizing that medical marijuana is here to stay.
Employers are starting to notice that limiting their hiring to candidates who don’t use marijuana is restricting their pool of qualified candidates. As we’ve seen, all the trends indicate that medical marijuana use is only going to expand. In all likelihood, those employers will soon have to learn to live with it, or else they’ll have to learn to live without employees.
If You Are Going to Use Marijuana in Alabama, Only an Alabama Marijuana Card Offers You Any Legal Protection
The bottom line is that without an Alabama Marijuana Card, you have absolutely no legal defense at all against criminal charges and drug-related termination.
We recommend you review and be sure you fully understand your employer’s drug policies before using marijuana. However, if you do choose to use marijuana in defiance of your employer’s policies, only a medical marijuana card may help a skilled attorney build you a winning case.
Reserve an appointment with one of our compassionate doctors today. You’ll get an appointment just as soon as we’re cleared to start making them, and you’ll save $25 off your evaluation!
Although the Federal government and some employers may be dragging their feet in accepting what is almost certainly inevitable, there is no reason you can’t begin the process of finding relief today.
*Important note: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It was not written by an attorney. Although every reasonable effort is made to present current and accurate information, Alabama Marijuana Card and all authors make no guarantees of any kind and cannot be held responsible or liable for any outdated or incorrect information. The information contained herein is not a substitute for the counsel of an attorney. We strongly recommend seeking the counsel of an attorney if you are having trouble with or are questioning employer marijuana policy enforcement.
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
At Alabama Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-5633, or simply reserve a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
Check out Alabama Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.