Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pot on the Premises – A New Dilemma for Arizona Employers, Part II

In the June 24 post, I concluded that the language and structure of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) could support an argument that Arizona employers do not have the right to prohibit the Qualified Patients (QP) or Designated Caregivers (DC) among their work force from bringing marijuana to work, so long as they do not smoke or ingest it on the premises.  The AMMA is not the only relevant source of law, however.

Marijuana still is a Schedule I controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it is unlawful to possess marijuana under federal law.   That is the central legal conflict that has propelled state and federal officials into litigation and stalled the dispensary application process, as I have reported in earlier posts.

There is also always an issue as to who is the possessor of the illegal drug, such that in a criminal context, several people could be charged with drug crimes in connection with a single stash.  So, for example, if police serve a warrant at an office where the property owner and two other people work and find marijuana, all three of them could be in legal jeopardy.

For this reason alone, I believe employers have a legal right as possessors of the real estate that makes up their workplaces to prohibit their employees from bringing marijuana onto the premises.  The extremely legitimate interest in avoiding criminal liability ought to give an employer a right to say, “Don’t bring any marijuana onto the premises,” so long as it remains unlawful under federal law.

Again, however, this is not the end of the inquiry.  In future posts, I’ll take a look at whether banning employees from bringing marijuana on the premises could give QPs and DCs a claim of unlawful discrimination under the AMMA.

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