Friday, June 24, 2011

Pot on the Premises – A New Dilemma for Arizona Employers

Before the voters adopted the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) in November 2010, Arizona employers did not have to think about whether they needed or wanted a policy prohibiting employees from bringing marijuana into the workplace. 

Marijuana possession was illegal under both state and federal law.  As a general rule, employers don’t need to have a policy that says:  Don’t bring stuff that is illegal to work.

Now, however, marijuana possession is legal under state law for Cardholders, which Arizoneout readers know includes for the moment Qualified Patients (QP) and Designated Caregivers (DC).  As of June 15, 2011, there were more than 5,600 QPs and nearly 150 DCs.

This presents two big dilemmas for Arizona employers:  (1) Can we adopt a policy prohibiting marijuana on the premises and (2) should we prohibit marijuana on the premises?  Today’s post will look specifically at what the AMMA says about the first question, and I will continue to explore these two dilemmas over the next several posts.

The AMMA does not state directly whether employers can prohibit marijuana on their premises.  The Act says that smoking marijuana is prohibited in any public place.  A.R.S. § 36-2802(B).  It also states that employers are not required to allow “the ingestion of marijuana in any workplace.”  A.R.S. § 36-2814(3).

Thus, based solely on the language of the AMMA, there is an argument that Arizona employers do not have the right to prohibit Cardholders from bringing marijuana to work, so long as they do not smoke or ingest it on the premises.  Whether that argument will be adopted by the courts as the authoritative interpretation of the AMMA remains to be seen.

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