What Employers Need to Know about Alabama's Medical Marijuana Law

By Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson, P.C.

May 21, 2021

On  May  17th,  Alabama Governor  Kay Ivey  signed  Alabama’s  Medical  Marijuana  law,  joining  more  than  30  other  states  which  permit  physician  prescribed  use  of  marijuana  for  certain  medical  conditions.  Although  the  new  act  decriminalizes  prescribed  use  under  state law, it remains illegal under federal law.

The  new  law  has  prompted  many  employers  to  consider  whether  to  revise  their  own policies on off-duty marijuana use to allow medical use.  Although employers can accommodate  prescribed  use,  they  are  not  required to  do  so under  the  new  law. In fact, the law has several provisions which specifically protect employers’ existing rights to prohibit drug use:

• Employers   are not required to permit marijuana use at all or to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana (including altering job duties);
• Employer-provided  health  coverage  is  not  required  to  cover  the  cost  of  prescription marijuana;
• An  employer  may  take  an adverse  job  action  against  an  employee  who  uses   marijuana, even with a prescription, including refusal to hire, fire, and discipline – regardless of the lack of impairment on the job;
• An  employer  may  maintain  its  drug  testing  policy,  including  a  drug  free  workplace program and DOT-compliant testing programs;
• Employers can adopt a policy requiring employees to notify the employer that they possess a medical cannabis card;
• The  Act  does  not  alter  the  worker’s  compensation  premium  discount  for  employers  with  drug  free  workplace  programs  or  the  employer’s  right  to  deny benefits based on a positive test;
• An employee who  is  discharged  from  employment  because  of  use  of  medical cannabis, or refusal to submit to or cooperate with a drug test, is legally  conclusively  presumed  to  have  been  discharged  for  misconduct and therefore disqualified from unemployment benefits;
• The Act specifically states that it does not create a basis for filing a lawsuit over  an   employer’s   adverse   action   against   an   employee   for   using   physician prescribed marijuana.

The Act went into effect on the governor’s signing.

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