For years, marijuana’s classification at the federal level as a Schedule I controlled substance has been a major hurdle to the legal cannabis industry on a state level. Patients who use medical marijuana often face the risk of experiencing federal reprisals for taking part in an activity deemed legal by their home states and one that is geared towards improving their health and quality of life. Consequently, most federal organizations, which are required to adhere to federal policies, tend to deprive individuals who use state legal cannabis of certain benefits.
Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel doesn’t believe this should be the norm. In a brief prepared by her office, she argued that employers cannot use cannabis consumption as a reason to disqualify their employees from receiving unemployment benefits. This came after three cases regarding cannabis and unemployment benefits were brought before the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Commission. Each case featured an employee who was found with cannabis metabolites in their system, which can remain in hair follicles for 90 days or more after consuming cannabis, and an employer who claimed that the drug test results disqualified that employee from unemployment benefits.
Specifically, these cases featured an off-duty HVAC employee who was involved in an accident while driving a company car, a warehouse worker who had to be hospitalized after being hurt on site, and a maintenance worker who was injured on company time. All three employees tested positive for marijuana after submitting to a drug test, although they claim that they were sober and clear minded at the time of their accidents. Their employers tried to use their drug test results to deny unemployment benefits using state law, which says that individuals who test positive for illegal substances are liable for disqualification.
Presenting their cases before administrative judges, two of the employees won their cases while one lost. This Monday, Nessel released her brief in support of employees who consume legal marijuana. She argued that cannabis use cannot be used as a basis for penalizing or denying the rights and benefits of anyone older than 21 years of age. Employers have no control over their employees in their private lives, she says, and they have no right to call what their employees do in their free time “misconduct.” The drug disqualification the employers tried to base their cases on only applies to illegal drugs, which cannabis isn’t in several states, including Michigan.
This mismatch between state and federal law has consistently been a thorn in the cannabis sector’s side. While Nessel’s brief defends the rights of workers who choose to use state legal cannabis, it is a sign of a deeper problem that requires swift attention. With lawmakers considering legislation to federally deschedule cannabis, there is a chance that individuals will no longer be penalized for acts that are legal in their home states.
The position of the attorney general in Michigan with regard to the right of people to consume state-legal cannabis during their private time is a plus for the entire cannabis industry, including companies such as American Cannabis Partners because it takes marijuana a step closer to being looked at like any other legal substance, such as alcohol.
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