9th Cir: Montana law doesn't prevent employers from banning marijuana
- The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss a fired marijuana user's lawsuit against his employer, Charter Communications, LLC. The Montana Supreme Court's refusal to certify a question that plaintiff Lance Carson wanted answered before the state's high court will stand.
- The federal appeals court concluded that a state's legalization of marijuana won't necessarily override a company's drug-free workplace policy. The Montana Marijuana Act (MMA) doesn't "prevent employers from prohibiting their employees from using marijuana or authorize wrongful termination or discrimination suits against employers," it said.
- The court also noted that the MMA doesn't violate Montana's constitution and is in line with the state's "careful regulation of access to an otherwise illegal substance for limited use by persons for whom there is little or no other effective alternative" while "avoid[ing] entanglement with federal law."
According to a Challenger, Gray & Christmas Gallup poll, one in eight Americans smoke marijuana. And because marijuana use is only expected to grow, companies are grappling with shifts in states' laws and their effect on the workplace.
Increasingly, experts note that employers may have to relax their drug policies, as more states legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes and employers struggle to hire in a tight labor market. But employers are also still obligated to maintain a work environment that minimizes threats to workers' health and accidents caused by impairments related to drug use.
The question of how and when an employer may intervene regarding marijuana use will likely only become more complicated. Maine shocked employers when it became the first state to prohibit employers from discriminating against workers because they use the substance outside of work. Maine employers, however, may still prohibit employees from using or possessing marijuana at work and may discipline employees who are under the influence of drugs at work.
- Ninth Circuit Court UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT