Since legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is 2016, there has been an increase in users. There are more than half a million registered patients and caregivers, according to the PA Department of Health.

Medical marijuana is permitted in 33 states, 11 of those states and Washington DC permit recreational use as well. However, under federal law, the use of any marijuana, even medical, is illegal. This causes a lot of confusion in everyday life as well as at work. Pennsylvania provides protections to medical marijuana patients, but they are limited.

What if you’re injured at work and your doctor prescribes medical marijuana? Know your rights! Here are 5 things every worker should know:

Will Workers’ Compensation Pay for My Pot?

There is an important part of the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) that employers point to which relieves them from paying for an employee’s medical marijuana. It states that it, “shall not be construed to require an insurer or a health plan, whether paid for by Commonwealth funds or private funds, to provide coverage for medical marijuana.”

Can I Be Fired?

The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act spells out specific antidiscrimination protections for registered patients including hiring, firing and retaliation laws. The law states, “No employer may discharge, threaten, refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding an employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges solely on the basis of such employee’s status as an individual who is certified to use medical marijuana.”

Do I Need to Disclose My Use?

Although you shouldn’t lie about it, you do not have to disclose the use of medical marijuana. Be aware that periodic drug tests may be required by some employers and some hiring agents when applying for work. It’s best to be upfront in these situations.

Can I Use Marijuana at Work?

Although this question is complicated, the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act states, “nothing in this act shall require an employer to make any accommodation of the use of medical marijuana on the property or premises of any place of employment.” If an employee’s conduct falls below the standard usually expected for his/her position, or if he/she appears to be under the influence, employers are able to discipline employees. No reasonable accommodation needs to be made, even if marijuana is being used for something considered a disability under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Can My Employer Limit My Job Functions?

Employers may have rules about the amount of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, in an employee’s system. Those may be zero tolerance rules for certain job functions, even if an employee only medicates off work time.

In addition, the Pennsylvania medical marijuana law states that patients are prohibited from working with:

  • Chemicals requiring a permit for use, either by the state or federal government
  • High-voltage Electricity
  • Any other public utility.

The laws regarding medical marijuana are constantly changing. I continue to review policy guidelines issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American College of Occupational Safety and Environmental Medicine.  Also, I continue to monitor state and federal legalization efforts and case verdicts to stay informed on any changes or updates in the law.

Please contact me for further questions about medical marijuana in regard to workers’ compensation.