With the recent and dramatic changes in the laws controlling the use and purchase of marijuana, employers are scrambling to reconcile the legal medical use of cannabis with longstanding workplace policies on employee drug use.
Employers and employees want to know whether workers can be disciplined and even terminated for testing positive for marijuana; whether employees who use marijuana for medical purposes can be allowed to work while under the influence or permitted to use the drug on the worksite; and whether workers’ compensation benefits can be denied or limited for employees who legally use cannabis.
The Law in Colorado
In Colorado there are more than 100,000 medical marijuana users. Possessing a medical marijuana card does not, however, permit use of the drug while at work.
Employers have the right to ban workers from using medical marijuana while on the job and fire workers who come to work while under the influence. Colorado’s workers’ compensation statute says that an employee can lose up to 50 percent of wages and benefits if it is determined that the injured worker may have been impaired due to a controlled substance such as marijuana.
“Nonmedical benefits otherwise payable to an injured worker shall be reduced
fifty percent where injury results from the presence in the worker’s system,
during working hours, of not medically prescribed controlled substances.”
While the law does make an exception for medically prescribed drugs, marijuana cannot be legally prescribed and therefore doesn’t qualify for this exception. Colorado doctors can advise marijuana use, but cannot write a marijuana prescription.
Medical Benefits Protected
Medical benefits for treating your injury are not affected, regardless of the results of any drug tests and regardless of fault or whether you were under the influence.
Workers’ compensation in Colorado and throughout the United States is a no-fault system. Employers agree to take on the risk and expense of workplace injuries in exchange for employees waiving their right to sue in court.
In Colorado, except for in a few municipalities, there are no requirements for drug testing in the workplace. Employers are not required to have a written drug policy except for unemployment and workers’ compensation purposes. Where a Colorado employer does have a written drug policy, that employer can require that an injured worker undergo a post-accident drug test under any circumstance. If there’s a written drug policy in place, the employer does not have to suspect drug use before requiring a drug test.
In Colorado, employers must pay for any testing required of employees. Drug tests must be completed in a facility certified by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Traces of marijuana can stay in a person’s bloodstream for as much as 40 days. A worker who has not used marijuana for days or weeks may show presence of the drug in tests results.
Get Legal Representation
Changes in laws regarding legal marijuana use have been so revolutionary over the past few years, it is taking other areas of regulation some time to catch up. Don’t risk your job, reputation, or workers’ compensation benefits by using marijuana without fully understanding the law.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a marijuana DUI, contact us for a case evaluation.
Our firm will provide you with a comprehensive look at your case, what you can expect, and what steps are available to resolve your DUI Marijuana arrest. We also assist clients in Arvada, Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City, Federal Heights, Strasburg, Thornton, Westminster, and Bennett areas.