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Employer Rights: What Happens When an Employee Legally Obtains Marijuana in Michigan?

What happens when an employee legally obtains a medical marijuana permit or lawfully uses recreational marijuana?  What if the employee shows up for work while intoxicated from using marijuana? Is the employer able to discipline or fire the employee? 

Recreational Marijuana

On Nov. 6, 2018, Michigan voters passed Proposal 1, known as the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, decriminalizing the possession and use of marijuana by adults aged 21 and older. In Michigan, marijuana is treated similarly to alcohol, although most employers do not allow workers to use marijuana at work.

According to the Act, employers are free to discipline any employee violating an established workplace drug policy and working under the influence of marijuana.  However, the Act does not prevent an employer from refusing to hire a prospective employee due to their desire to use recreational marijuana.

Medical Marijuana

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), which became law on Dec. 4, 2008, allows an individual with a qualifying medical condition to register as a medical marijuana patient with the Michigan Department of Community Health. A registered medical marijuana user avoids penalties under state law for specific medicinal uses of the drug.

The MMMA does not provide an employee the right to use or be under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace. Just like medical marijuana, employers should feel free to discipline or terminate employees violating an established policy.

Workplace Policies

Workplace policies should always try to strike a balance between employee and employer’s rights. Employers should adopt clear policies on drug and alcohol use that are added to employee handbooks and policy manuals, or issued as a policy bulletin. Communication ensures that employees know the rules and the implications associated with the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. 

Policies help:
  • Establish and maintain a safe and healthy work environment
  • Decrease the number of accidental injuries to persons or property
  • Reduce absenteeism and tardiness and increase productivity
  • Maintain a professional atmosphere for employees and visitors.

Employers should update the policies annually providing employees with a clear understanding of what to expect and avoiding unwanted conflicts.

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