Marijuana and Injuries on the Job

Missouri voters on November 6, 2018 approved Amendment 2 which allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes under certain guidelines.
Missouri’s workers’ compensation law has a number of provisions regarding drugs and alcohol.
One provision reads: Where the employee fails to obey any rule or policy adopted by the employer relating to a drug-free workplace or the use of alcohol or non-prescribed controlled drugs in the workplace, the compensation and death benefit provided for herein shall be reduced 50% if the injury was sustained in conjunction with the use of alcohol or non-prescribed controlled drugs.
An employer can request an employee take a test for alcohol or a non-prescribed controlled substance if the employer suspects usage by the employee or if the employer’s policy clearly authorizes post injury testing. If the employer does request a test of the employee, when an injury occurs under these conditions, and the employee refuses to take the test, the employee forfeits all workers’ compensation benefits.
A positive drug test for a non-prescribed controlled drug or its metabolites raises a rebuttable presumption that the injury was sustained in conjunction with the use of the drug.
Under Amendment 2, it may be that the doctor doesn’t prescribe marijuana, it may be that the doctor just confirms the patient has a medical condition that qualifies the individual for marijuana.
Another provision of Missouri law is that if the use of alcohol or non-prescribed controlled drugs in violation of the employer’s rule or policy is the proximate cause of the injury, then the benefits or compensation otherwise payable under this chapter for death or disability shall be forfeited. In other words, if the alcohol or drug was the proximate cause of the injury, the employee gets nothing.
Missouri Amendment 2 does nothing to make marijuana legal at the federal level. Marijuana remains an illegal Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule I controlled substance. Even if marijuana is prescribed, federal employees and contractors will still have zero-tolerance policies. Truckers, drivers, airplane mechanics and other jobs regulated by the Department of Transportation will still be subject to DOT regulations.
The new amendment may not bar employers from continuing to enforce a zero-tolerance policy. The exception may be if medical marijuana use is found to a reasonable accommodation for qualified patients using marijuana. The courts will need to decide whether permitting use of medical marijuana is a reasonable accommodation under state law prohibiting disability discrimination.
The amendment bars claims against employers who discipline or terminate employees for working or attempting to work “under the influence” of marijuana. The phrase “under the influence” is not defined. There is no simple way to check for current levels of marijuana. Evidence of the drug remains in the user’s system for weeks. Judges in some states have ruled that it is legal to fire someone for using medical cannabis away from the job.
There are still a lot of questions about what the approval of Amendment 2 means for injured workers.
It may be that the legislature changes the current workers’ compensation law.
If you want to preserve all your workers’ compensation benefits, the safest course of action is not to use alcohol or non-prescribed controlled drugs.

Posted in Workers' Compensation.