Can I Be Fired For Using Medical Marijuana In Arizona?

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Medical Marijuana In The Arizona Workplace

Earlier today I received an e-mail from a medical marijuana patient in Arizona essentially asking if he can get fired for being a medical marijuana patient. He said that he only medicates after work, and stops medicating at least 8 hours before his shift so, as he stated, "my body is medicated but my mind is clear and ready for work." The answer was actually fairly easy for Ninjasmoker to find, but an interesting thing happened while I was on the phone jumping through the bureaucratic hoops to get an answer from the State of Arizona. I was a state worker once upon a time, so I always try to start with phone calls to the agencies that handle the matters I'm researching.

The first phone call I made was to the Arizona Worker's Compensation Office (602-542-4661). The reader that inspired this story said he is a construction worker, and I was curious what the process would be in the event of an injury, failed drug test, and inevitable medical marijuana defense at administrative hearing. The Arizona Worker's Compensation Office stated that they only handle the injury side of such an event, but that the Arizona Labor Board would be the best place to get the answer to any questions about medical marijuana in the Arizona workplace. The lady that I talked to was very nice and helpful.

The next phone call I made had a different result as far as customer service goes. I called the Arizona Labor Board (602-542-4515) and was greeted by a employee that sounded polite. I asked her if I could ask a question about medical marijuana in the Arizona workplace and she replied with a gasp, followed by "Oh God." I asked her what would happen in the event that a medical marijuana patient was fired at their workplace for failing a drug test. The person paused, then said, "Um, from you to me, I would really hope you weren't doing that at work."

I replied with, "I don't consume medical marijuana at my workplace. I stop medicating at least 8 hours before my shift so I'm not intoxicated at work ever. However, if I consumed marijuana even once in the last 30 days, I could fail a drug test, impairment or not. This is very important to me and other medical marijuana patients in the workforce." I of course don't live in Arizona, but felt the need to defend such a ridiculous response from the Arizona Labor Board employee. The employee basically responded that she doesn't know the answer, and that I would have to look at the statutes or call an attorney for the answer.

While I was on the phone with the reefer madness employee, Ninjasmoker found the answer online. Here is the answer from the Arizona DHS website:

  • An employer can't penalize a qualifying patient for a positive drug test for marijuana, unless the patient used, possessed, or was impaired by marijuana on the employment premises or during hours of employment.

So the lesson learned today is that no, you can't be fired for simply being a responsible Arizona medical marijuana patient. If you are a medical marijuana patient who acts irresponsibly, then yes you can. However, if you are like our TWB reader, and only consume medical marijuana on your personal time, not at work, and are not impaired when you are at work, then you are protected according to Arizona law.

The other lesson learned today is that reefer madness is alive and well at the Arizona Labor Board. It begs the question, 'if someone was actually fired, would the Arizona Labor Board uphold the law, or uphold their personal views?' Of course, one employee being anti-medical marijuana doesn't mean that the entire agency is that way. But, I think it is an example of the general attitude of a reefer madness generation that is very prevalent in Arizona, which could affect the way things are handled there.

If you live in another state, and would like us to research a similar issue, feel free to e-mail Ninjasmoker and I and we will see what we can dig up. Not all states have the same protections as Arizona, so you should be educated on your states laws!

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