Alabama Legalizes Medical Cannabis

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Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the “Darren Wesley ‘Ato” Hall Compassion Act” (the Act) into law on Monday, May 17, 2021, legalizing medical cannabis in the state. The Act establishes the Medical Cannabis Commission and creates a health care market for medical cannabis. Vaping and smoking are prohibited while other products, such as gummies, oils, and/or creams are permitted. The Act is immediately effective following receipt of the Governor’s signature.

How Does the Act Impact Employers?

Generally speaking, the Act is extremely deferential to employer rights. Employers are not required to permit or accommodate the use of medical cannabis in the workplace. Additionally, employers are not required to modify job or working conditions for employees that engage in the use of medical cannabis. Employers can refuse to hire, discharge, discipline, or take other adverse employment action against an individual in terms of hiring, discharging, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment as a result of their use of medical cannabis, regardless of their impairment or lack thereof.

Employers are not limited in their ability to establish or enforce a drug testing policy that complies with all applicable state laws and federal regulations. This includes policies that prohibit the use of medical cannabis in the workplace and drug-free workforce programs. Employers can have policies in place that require an employee to notify them if they possess or obtain a medical cannabis card. The Act does not interfere with any federal restrictions on employment, including, but not limited to, Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.

An individual cannot take legal action against an employer because the employer refused to hire, discharged, disciplined, or took other adverse employment action against them with respect to hiring, discharging tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment due to their use of medical cannabis. The Act doesn’t impact an employer’s right to deny or establish legal defenses to the payment of workers’ compensation benefits to an employee based on a positive drug test or their refusal to submit to a drug test.

Employers are not required to reimburse costs associated with medical cannabis use. The Act does not impact or alter the workers’ compensation premium discount that is available to employers that establish a drug-free workplace policy that complies with state laws.

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