Employers should re-examine drug policies after Massachusetts medical marijuana court ruling

What does this mean for employers? “The implications of this ruling are huge; this is really a watershed decision in Massachusetts,” said Jeffrey Dretler, labor and employment attorney based in Boston, MA. “What it means is essentially it is no longer OK in Massachusetts to have a zero-tolerance drug policy that you apply … without exception or looking at the individual value of the case.” Since 29 states and Washington, D.C. now permit the use of medical marijuana, legal experts are telling employers to consider the ruling’s implications in both Massachusetts and elsewhere. Chief Justice Ralph Gants wrote that the ruling “does not necessarily mean that (Ms. Barbuto) will prevail in proving handicap discrimination. The defendants at summary judgment or trial may offer evidence to meet their burden to show that the plaintiff’s use of medical marijuana is not a reasonable accommodation because it would impose an undue hardship on the defendants’ business,” according to court documents. The ruling also stated that if a doctor concludes medical marijuana is the most effective treatment for an employee’s debilitating condition, “an exception to an employer’s drug policy to permit its use is a facially reasonable accommodation.” “The fact that the employee’s possession of medical marijuana is in violation of federal law does not make it per se unreasonable as an accommodation,” Mr. Gants wrote in the unanimous six-judge panel ruling.]]>

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