As California law has changed to allow for legal recreational marijuana for those over the age of 21, many across the state are left with questions. Can an employee be fired for legally using marijuana? The answer is not a simple yes or no.
As the Sacremento Bee reports, despite legalization, drug-free workplaces remain legal. This means that failing or refusing a drug test can still lead to termination. Not only does this apply to those who are regulated by the U.S. Transportation Department, since the federal government does not recognize the legality of recreational marijuana, this also applies to federal employees and contractors. State employees can be tested and fired depending on the outcome of their tests as well. Proposition 64, which is what legalized recreational marijuana, specifically included language that gave employers the right to determine “workplace policies pertaining to marijuana.” This means that each individual workplace is able to have their own rules, which can mean no pot period or no partaking while on the clock, which is to be expected.
There are also no provisions in place to protect workers who have a prescription for medical marijuana, and the California Supreme Court has ruled against a veteran with a prescription in 2008. According to Vice, a Colorado man was also fired from his job for testing positive for marijuana, despite his medical marijuana prescription meant to ease the leg spasm he has had since becoming a quadriplegic at age 16. The Colorado Supreme Court denied that he was protected under the law, and in similar cases in other states, the courts have ruled in the same way. Only four states, Arizona, Delaware, Minnesota and New York, have protections in place for those who have prescriptions for medical marijuana.