Question: Can employers refuse to hire applicants or discipline current employees for reasons directly arising from approved medical marijuana use?
Answer: The answer to this question may be a moving target, but currently appears to be "yes". Consistent with most states, Washington state law does not prohibit employers from refusing to hire or taking disciplinary action against an employee for marijuana use regardless of whether the individual holds a valid physician's recommendation for using marijuana as part of a treatment regime.
The Washington state legislature is considering a bill that included in its original version a provision protecting job applicants and employees who use approved medical marijuana from discrimination; however, that provision was removed following public comment. The Washington State Human Rights Commission has even stated it will decline to investigate any claims of discrimination involving the use of medical marijuana.
Notwithstanding the current state of the law, an employee could still bring legal action in state and federal court, and there is growing momentum to gain some protections for employees (Arizona now has a non-discrimination law in effect). Employers should continually monitor the medical marijuana use laws and the effect on their policies, employment applications and handbooks, and make adjustments as appropriate to ensure compliance with changes in the law. The attorneys at Lukins and Annis, P.S. can assist you in working through the process.As originally printed in the Journal of Business - Spokane, in February 2011. Labor & Employment
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