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Medical Marijuana Laws Expand into Georgia

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On April 16, 2015, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law “Haleigh’s Hope Act”, making Georgia the 26th state to decriminalize the use of medical marijuana. However, this law is hardly a prescription for individuals in the state to go out and “light ‘em up.”

Even more so than other jurisdictions which have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons, Georgia’s law is very restrictive, and only allows low-THC cannabis oil for certain “medication-resistant epilepsies,” while also creating an infrastructure, registration process and research program for the drug. The law sets forth nine specified legal conditions which are covered under medical marijuana usage, including end-stage cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s and sickle cell disease.

The law also does not establish any employment protections for medical marijuana use in the state. Other states, including Arizona, Delaware, Minnesota and New York limit employer action to some degree. In contrast, Georgia’s law mandates a very employer-friendly approach and allows employers to prohibit on-duty and off-duty use and to take adverse action based on a positive test result.

However, under this new law it appears that Georgia employers are still legally obligated to engage in interactive dialogue with employees who are medical marijuana users and where possible, reasonably accommodate employees with underlying medical conditions.

Georgia employers should review their workplace drug testing policies to ensure compliance with the new law, and should educate any employees involved in human resources and making employment decisions on behalf of their companies.

Hilary Atkins

Posted In: Government, Legal

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