Part 2: What Constitutes Relief for the use of Cannabis Oil!
What constitutes relief for the legal or lawful use of cannabis oil?
Written By: Kristina Keech Spitler, Esq.
The new law statute talks explicitly about what happens when somebody needs to have medical cannabis oil. One thing they must do, is they have to possess an unexpired written certification from a practitioner (which could be a doctor or a nurse practitioner.) Someone who’s usually allowed to write prescriptions. They must be registered with the board of Pharmacy, and it’s not just any doctor. Anybody who is writing certifications for cannabis oil must be registered with the board of pharmacy.
In addition, once they have their written certification, the patient must register with the board of pharmacy. What they do now with their written certification is they go to a registered medical cannabis pharmaceutical processor, distributor, or dispensary. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, there are only five that have the authorization, and they’ve been spread out throughout the Commonwealth to have it around all the various parts of the state. Prince William County has one dispensary that has been approved, and that is located here in Manassas. It’s called Beyond Hello.
What if you’re an employer and believe the lawful use of cannabis oil impairs the employee’s work?
The new law talks about: What if the employee who needs the medical cannabis oil brings that oil with them to work; what are the employer’s rights under that circumstance? The law is very clear that employers with employees who are lawfully using cannabis oil still retain the ability to take adverse employment actions. That means you can discipline them, fire them, and talk with them about the issues for any work impairment caused by using the cannabis oil.
Suppose the employee comes to work and is not performing their work and believes it’s associated with the use of cannabis oil. In that case, the employer can, in fact, discipline them or take adverse action, up to and including termination, based on the facts and the evidence you have at the time. Employers can also prohibit the possession of cannabis oil during work hours.
Even if the employee has a written certification, the employer can say that we do not want cannabis oil on our work premises, even though you have it lawfully.
What if you are a federal contractor or depend on federal funding? How does that impact you now with the new Virginia law and lawful use of cannabis oil?
Again, Virginia law has addressed this. It specifically says that for those who are federal contractors or subcontractors with employees who are using cannabis oil lawfully, they are not required to commit any act that would cause the employer to be in violation of any federal law or result in the loss of federal contract or federal funding. So, again, you do not have to do anything that would jeopardize your status as a federal contractor or subcontractor.
What if you are an employer in the defense industrial-based sector, which talks about the military department of defense, or you’re dealing with them as a federal contractor or subcontractor?
What can you do regarding this new Virginia law? The statute specifically says that defense industrial-based sector employers or prospective employers (meaning that you’re looking at hiring somebody, but you’re still in that sector) are not required to hire or retain any applicant or employee who tests positive for THC in excess of 50 milligrams for the urine test, 10 milligrams for the hair test. So, you do have some rights to limit your exposure. The reason for this is that you don’t want someone who may be impaired while on the job.
An employer to make sure they still have a safe work environment. If you have concerned somebody who may be under the influence of lawful cannabis oil, you probably should seek counsel to address how to handle this matter lawfully. You’ve got to balance the competing laws.
What can employers do in the application process?
As an aside, I will say that the EEOC says if you are an employer with 15 or more employees, you are covered by the federal law Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964. There are provisions that talk about the protection of employees and make sure that if you’re going to do a background check, it doesn’t violate or create an implicit bias. There is guidance, and if you want to look upon the EEOC, it talks about criminal history checks. There is a perception, and I think supported by evidence, that those who are Hispanic or African American, particularly males, were disproportionately impacted by the laws. Suppose you are doing background checks and don’t have a reasonable basis for saying there’s a reason to exclude someone with that criminal background. In that case, it may result in potential exposure to liability for that.
Where we are right now is the issue of doing background checks related to the new law in Virginia?
It specifically says employers and educational institutions are prohibited from requiring an applicant to disclose information related to any arrest, criminal charge, or conviction for any decriminalized possession of marijuana. So, what this is doing is it is resulting in an employer saying, listen, I’m just not going to even ask for background if there’s any marijuana charges or charges related to marijuana? I think people are wrestling with that right now. What do they want to do as part of their process going forward?
Some employers are saying, listen; I don’t know that I really care whether they used marijuana when they were in college or whether they used marijuana ten years ago. Do they care maybe if they used marijuana last week? Well, maybe some do, maybe some don’t. There are businesses that you know have a philosophy that says I don’t care what you do on your personal time. In Virginia right now, no law addresses that. Some states do have laws that address limitations on employers’ rights to limit people’s personal time. What they do on their personal time, in Virginia, there is no law on it, but what they’re suggesting here is that you can’t require an applicant to disclose that information if it’s an arrest, criminal charge, or conviction for any decriminalized possession of marijuana.