Marijuana policy may lead to job trouble

Jared Rogers-Martin

Marijuana culture coughs out dramatic clouds of irony. The substance, deemed illegal, appears in most every form of entertainment and even touched the lungs of our current president. Yet law enforcement officers wage a war on drugs, one that will never fully quench the silly fervor that comes from watching Cheech and Chong communicate with drug-using space aliens. 
 
A significant part of our American culture supports open marijuana use. Yet, as a governing society, we prosecute it. This dichotomy will place Minnesota in a sobering situation come July when medical marijuana becomes legal.
 
In just a few months, ingesting marijuana legally as oil, hash or vapor could prevent people with real medical conditions and disabilities from employment because their urine will contain a prohibited chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
 
This urine-cup wall creates a double standard for employers. On the one hand, employers have the right to screen out employees for illegal drugs, including marijuana. On the other hand, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from hiring or firing any workers due to a disability or medical condition — which includes the legal medication they choose to take. 
 
Without legislation to dictate how to differentiate between legal and illegal marijuana use, Minnesota leaves the interpretation of the law to employers. It gives hiring managers too much authority to utilize their selective powers based on personal preference.
 
Minnesota lawmakers need to start thinking about how they will address this issue, as it has far-reaching implications for labor rights. 
 
I urge readers to remember that the federal Religious Freedom Act, from which the recent Indiana law was created, originated as a Supreme Court case about drug testing in the workplace. 
 
Minute details in legal lexicology have large, rippling consequences.
 
As a non-smoker, I do not have an opinion for either side on the legalization of recreational marijuana. 
 
However, because Minnesota will allow medicinal use of the drug, the state should prohibit employers from using THC as a reason to fail registered medicinal users’ drug tests. 
 
The Americans with Disabilities Act already has provisions in place that restrict certain legal medications for employees in industries where their employers could lose their licenses based on a worker’s drug use. 
 
But for a number of other professions like the service and retail industries, potential employees could soon be looking at “NOW HIRING” signs that may also post in big black letters, “NON-USERS ONLY,” based on a company’s social stance on the issue. 
 
Something tells me we’d all like to avoid devolving back to such deplorable discrimination.