Monday, June 27, 2011

Pot-Smoking Ban in ‘Public Places’ Includes Most Workplaces

In Friday’s post, I began what promises to be several days’ exploration of Arizona employers’ new dilemmas regarding pot on their premises.  I mentioned one of the few clear directives of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) – smoking marijuana is prohibited in any public place, even by Qualified Patients (QP) with state licenses to use the weed for medicinal purposes.

While the AMMA does not define what is a public place, the regulations issued by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) contain a detailed definition.   Most – but not all – workplaces are going to be within the definition of a public place.

According to the regulation, a public place is “any location, facility, or venue that is not intended for the regular exclusive use of an individual or a specific group of individuals.”  If it is someplace where the public or selected portions of the public regularly are invited in, it is likely to be a public place. 

The rule goes on to provide a comprehensive list of examples:  airports, banks, bars, child care facilities, common areas of apartment buildings, condos and other multi-family housing, educational facilities, entertainment facilities or venues, hotel and motel common areas; laundromats; libraries, office buildings, parking lots, parks, reception areas, restaurants, retail food production or marketing establishments, retail stores, shopping malls, sidewalks, sports facilities, theaters, and waiting rooms.

Also on the list are most health care institutions, except for nursing care institutions, hospices, assisted living centers and homes, adult day health care facilities, and adult foster care homes.  In those few health care facilities, QPs among the patients must be allowed reasonable access to use marijuana – unless allowing such access would cause the facility to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or regulations.  Even those facilities are allowed – but not required – by the AMMA to insist that marijuana be consumed by a method other than smoking.

So when the AMMA says that smoking marijuana is not authorized in any public place, that encompasses a lot of private property in Arizona.  Most of the state’s workplaces, in fact.

This means that even the most compassionate employer who believed in the efficacy of medical marijuana and wanted to allow any QP among its employees the most possible legal access still could not allow smoking medical marijuana in an Arizona workplace.  Unless, perhaps, the compassionate employer operates a nursing care institution, hospice, assisted living center or other similar health care facility.

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