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Should Medicinal Cannabis Smokers be Fired from their Jobs?

Medicinal cannabis smokers use the plant for a variety of ailments ranging from treating or preventing breast cancer, brain cancer, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, ADD and ADHD, arthritis, sclerosis, bipolar disorder, depression, and hundreds of other conditions. Currently those who search for aid within the medicinal qualities of Cannabis are risking their jobs, careers, and livelihoods.

To date, 14 states have laws allowing the use of medical marijuana, which shield legal users from criminalization however it does not protect them from the penalties enforced by their employers. As more people are being prescribed marijuana across the nation, they are wrestling with a caveat: They could be fired.

Medical marijuana users are not considered a protected group. If a company so chooses, they can fire someone who uses medical marijuana, attorneys say. Labor law experts say most states operate this way, unless the employee has a specific employment contract that makes exceptions for medical marijuana use.

Only Michigan could be considered an exception. Part of Michigan’s law, passed in 2008, does address employers, saying a patient carrying a medical marijuana card cannot be “denied any right or privilege” by a “business or occupational or professional licensing board.”

The debate on whether employers can fire medical marijuana users comes at a time when more states are expected to legalize medical marijuana. At least 16 states are considering the legalizing medical marijuana during this legislative session, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Even states once considered to be conservative on drug policies, such as Kansas and Alabama, are reconsidering.

The push toward legalizing medical marijuana is gaining clout.

Without laws defending medical marijuana users from employers’ drug policies, a growing number of medical marijuana users are being let go from their jobs, says Keith Stroup on the legal counsel team of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He said his office, headquartered in Washington, receives about 300 e-mails and phone calls a year from medical marijuana users who have been fired or had job offers rescinded because of a failed drug test.