Regarding the Florida Medical Marijuana Law, what defines “marijuana?”
“Marijuana” means all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin, including low-THC cannabis which are dispensed from a medical marijuana treatment center for medical use by a qualified patient.” Florida Statute § 381.986
The vote for the use of medical cannabis in Florida.
In 2016 Florida citizens voted for a constitutional amendment permitting individuals to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. The bill passed with tremendous support garnering 72% of the votes, in the state known for its narrow margins and hotly contested elections.
While Medical Marijuana may have passed in Florida, Federal Law, as well as Florida law, does not prevent Florida employers from punishing employees for failing a drug test. Despite its landslide victory, the herbal medicine still faces controversy and must overcome ambiguity before it can be used freely by the constituents who voted for it.
Florida Statute §381.986, in great detail, covers the use and restrictions of Medical Marijuana in Florida. This statute reads, in part:
(1) (j) “Medical use” means the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of marijuana authorized by a physician certification. The term does not include use or administration of marijuana in the following locations:
a. On any form of public transportation, except for low-THC cannabis.
b. In any public place, except for low-THC cannabis.
c. In a qualified patient’s place of employment, except when permitted by his or her employer. d. In a state correctional institution, as defined in s. 944.02, or a correctional institution, as defined in s. 944.241.
e. On the grounds of a preschool, primary school, or secondary school, except as provided in s.1006.062.
f. In a school bus, a vehicle, an aircraft, or a motorboat, except for low-THC cannabis.
(15) APPLICABILITY.—This section does not limit the ability of an employer to establish, continue, or enforce a drug-free workplace program or policy. This section does not require an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace or any employee working while under the influence of marijuana. This section does not create a cause of action against an employer for wrongful discharge or discrimination.
Florida employers are not required to accommodate.
The excerpt above sparked major controversy and was unbeknown to most voters until after the law went into effect. Although the usage of Medical Marijuana is legal for those people who qualify, the law is clear that an employer is not required to accommodate an employee’s medical use of marijuana. This differs from other laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Family Medical Leave Act, where the federal government has mandated that employers follow certain protocols when dealing with these classes of people.
Florida employers do not have to accommodate to the fact that you are legally allowed to use marijuana, nor are they required to allow you to use marijuana at their business location. An employer can terminate an employee for the use of legal medical marijuana, and this termination does not create a basis for legal action for wrongful termination.
Marijuana can stay in a person’s system for up to multiple weeks, ensuring that employees subjected to drug test must refrain from the substance for indefinite amounts of time. A person with a marijuana card, depending on the rules of their employer, would not even be able to administer the medicine (smoking medical marijuana, for example) outside of work because they would run the risk of failing a drug test.
Incentives for employers
Under the laws as they currently stand, Florida actually provides incentives for employers NOT TO allow the usage of medical marijuana in their workplaces. In 1990 the Florida Legislature enacted a State law titled “Florida Drug-Free Workplace” F.S 112.0455. This law provided specific requirements which an employer must comply with to be certified as a Florida Drug-Free Workplace. The law also provided incentives and benefits for employers who are certified as a Florida Drug-Free Workplace. The State of Florida, through this law, encourages employers to drug test employees and promotes a Drug-Free Workplace environment. In Florida, companies get reduced rates on various insurances if they implement drug-free workplace policies.
Could the Florida medical cannabis pave the way for recreational use of weed?
Florida is also slowly moving toward recreational marijuana, with at least one bill being proposed in 2019 before dying in committee. Proponents of recreational marijuana are citing states like Colorado who have generated billions since approving of recreational use. Florida is already a tourist destination and could easily capitalize on the recreational marijuana industry. With the passage of medical marijuana and the lag time in the laws of Florida to catch up with these medical innovations, it makes you wonder whether recreational marijuana will be vertically integrated and structured the same way. The “drug” may become legal for recreational use, but under Florida Law, you could still be terminated from your place of employment.
There have been no successful legal challenges in Florida regarding medicinal marijuana in the workplace. Of course, this amendment is relatively new and the possibility remains that the courts could decide in favor of employees – especially as the opioid epidemic worsens and more and more states are looking to medical marijuana as a better alternative to chronic pain relief. Until that time, the statute is clear that marijuana use, medical or otherwise, is not permitted under the Florida Drug-Free Workplace rules.