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Medical Marijuana Made Legal in Pennsylvania

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Joining a host of other states enacting legalization of medical marijuana laws, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe signed legislation that legalizes the use of marijuana in treating patients suffering from ALS, autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, nerve damage, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and numerous other conditions. The full list of what is covered under the legislation, known as “The Medical Marijuana Act” can be found here.

Interestingly, medical marijuana only may be administered by pill, oil, topical forms (including gel, creams or ointments), vaporization, or nebulization, tincture or liquid. Smoking marijuana is strictly prohibited under the new law.

The law goes into effect within thirty days of its passage on April 17, 2016, but the PA Department of Health still must promulgate rules and regulations regarding the establishment of dispensaries of the drug, as well as setting up a registration process and issuing ID cards to eligible patients.

It is important to note for employers that they need not accommodate the use of marijuana at work and may also discipline employees under the influence of marijuana on the job:

“Nothing in the Act shall require an employer to make an accommodation of the use of medical marijuana on the property or premises of any place of employment. This Act shall in no way limit an employer’s ability to discipline an employee for being under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace or for working while under the influence of medical marijuana when the employee’s conduct falls below the standard of care normally accepted for that position.”

Further, the new law emphasizes that the employer is not required to do anything that would place the employer in violation of federal law, and certain safety-sensitive jobs are protected, disallowing medical marijuana users to have certain blood contents while handling chemicals requiring permits by federal or state governments or agencies, and high-voltage electricity or any public utility.

So for now, employers in Pennsylvania are protected in their workplaces from disciplining (up to termination) any employee claiming protection under the law for using or being under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace. However, questions remain related to the statute, including what constitutes being under the influence of marijuana or what constitutes a normal standard of care of a particular position.
We highly recommend that our members with operations in Pennsylvania review their drug and alcohol policies and consult with local counsel to determine how they will deal with the new law once it goes into effect.

Hilary Atkins

Posted In: Legal, Management

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