Medical marijuana is now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia. As these states proliferate the number of doctors willing to write such prescriptions and the sources for medical marijuana grow. Inevitably users with valid prescriptions are starting to show up in the applicant pool of your workplace.
It is not unusual in one of these states to get an applicant who fails a pre-employment drug test. As is standard procedure, the Medical Review Officer of the drug testing company or the HR professional asks the applicant to explain, and hears that they have a valid prescription. Then my phone rings...
"Do I have to hire this person?" is the usual question I get. The answer is simple: "NO!" Here is why:
1. Marijuana is still an illegal drug - There is misalignment between the federal and state governments on this matter, but regardless of the state statutes marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Your policy against "illegal drugs" still holds even if your state disagrees and the applicant has a valid prescription.
2. Your safety policies apply - The effects of marijuana include slower reaction time and impaired judgement. Whether the jobs you have are medical care-giving or operating heavy machinery, being under the influence of this drug makes the work unsafe for the employee and/or others.
3. Your policy against being impaired by a legally prescribed drug applies - If 1 and 2 above don't work for you, let us assume that your applicant is right and that their prescription is valid and legal and makes them eligible for hire. Most companies have policies that forbid employees taking legal prescription drugs from working if that drug impairs them. Think about a strong cough syrup containing codeine or strong pain medication following a traffic accident. Even if the marijuana prescription is legal and valid its effects put the user under your legal drug impairment policy and unable to work.
4. These aren't the people you want to hire - Lets face it: medical marijuana is massive work-around where the laws on the books haven't caught up with societal attitudes. Medical marijuana started out as "compassionate use" exceptions for cancer patients needing relief from chemotherapy side-effects. More and more I see applicants whose prescriptions are for "anxiety" or some other diagnosis by exclusion. The vast majority of medical marijuana prescriptions go to recreational drug users.
With all the good unemployed or underemployed people out there you can do better with your hiring.