Updated on January 14, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Floridians looking for available jobs online may have noticed an important change. Employment drug screening in Florida is mentioned on many job listings. In fact, there has been a noticeable uptick in this requirement since medical cannabis was legalized in Florida in 2014.
For many people, this issue does not present a problem until they go looking for a new job. Those who have been with their employer for a long time may not have been required to submit to regular drug testing. Traditionally, drug testing was only required for jobs in transportation or healthcare; where safety risks required sobriety tests for drugs and alcohol as well as for insurance purposes.
Increased employment drug screening in Florida may concern medical marijuana patients with qualifying health conditions. They may question which kind of jobs are most likely to require a drug screening, and how to approach an employer regarding their medical marijuana cardholder status.
Understanding the Purpose of Employment Drug Screening in Florida
The declaration of a ‘drug-free workplace’ can exclude individuals who responsibly use medical cannabis to alleviate health conditions. For example, some patients may take a capsule or two throughout the day. Others may use a low dose of cannabis to manage debilitating symptoms of PTSD. This is common for American veterans.
The bias that exists for medical cannabis patients is particularly difficult in states that have not legalized cannabis for adult-use. In those states, an employer may not discriminate against an employee unless the employee demonstrates that they are incapacitated by their use of recreational or medical marijuana.
Commercial insurance companies have provisions that require employers to screen for drug testing. By doing so, the company reduces its overall liability by assuring that all employees are drug-free. This saves them on insurance premiums and provides some peace of mind. The employer can be deemed negligent if they knowingly permit individuals with a degree of impairment.
Rather than risk any kind of insurance liability or negligence, employers are adopting zero-tolerance plans. While this helps to protect their business, it is a detriment to qualified employees who are medical cannabis users.
What if I Choose not to Participate in Employment Drug Screening?
Legally, you have the right to decline to participate in a drug screening conducted at your place of work or business. However, the employer also has the right to deny you employment if you refuse to participate.
If you are applying for a new job, they can stop the hiring process. If you are currently employed with the business, they can dismiss you on the grounds of illegal drug use. This is true even though you may be a certified medical marijuana cardholder in Florida.
Can I Be Fired from My Job if I Use Medical Cannabis?
The most powerful defense for Americans who suffer from debilitating health conditions isthe Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA protects individuals, who have diagnosed disabilities, from prejudice because of their health conditions.
However, medical marijuana patients in Florida who have tried to fight employee dismissal citing ADA have not been successful to date. The Americans With Disabilities Act is a set of federal regulations. According to Federal law, cannabis is a prohibited Schedule I drug.
All Americans who are medical marijuana cardholders face the same stigmas and consequences as recreational users. Unfortunately, you may be fired from your job and have no legal recourse to help you defend your position. Employers typically side with federal laws regarding human rights issues and labor laws.
What Happens I Disclose Medical Marijuana Use to My Employer?
Court challenges may happen when employees are fired as a result of using medical cannabis. However, employers have the benefit in court because there are not any laws that guarantee protected employment for marijuana cardholders in Florida.
When a ‘drug-free’ environment has been established for the business, the employer is under no legal obligation in Florida to make accommodations for the patient. If a long-term employee is screened and cannabis use is revealed, he or she can be dismissed.
Employers do have a responsibility to inform employees of a policy change to a ‘drug-free’ environment. They should provide a written letter amending employment policies prior to conducting drug screening for employees. However, once the employee screenings are completed, anyone who did not pass can have their employment terminated.
Will Employment Protections Exist in Florida for Medical Cannabis Patients?
Right now, it feels like the deck is stacked against certified medical marijuana patients in Florida. Will it change in the future? That depends on how quickly we can end the stigma or association of medical marijuana with recreational, adult-use that is not doctor-supervised.
As the opioid crisis in American continues to escalate, physicians and the public are looking for new insights into chronic health treatments. When medical cannabis becomes more understood as highly regulated, safe, controlled, and doctor-assisted health modality, we may see the development of new labor laws.