BREAKING NEWS — Beginning December 8th, recreational marijuana is officially legal in Missouri. This prohibition-ending legislation follows the State’s November 8th approval of Amendment 3. Despite statewide legalization, marijuana use remains illegal at the federal level due to its continued classification as a Schedule I controlled substance. Today also marks the start of many changes to the State’s existing medical marijuana laws, which will likely have an equal – if not more significant – impact on the workplace.
What Missouri Residents Need to Know
Employers can still prohibit the use of marijuana in the workplace. Although Amendment 3 permits individuals to possess 3 ounces or less of marijuana, it does not prohibit Missouri employers from having policies restricting marijuana possession, use, or intoxication in the workplace or on their property.
More specifically, Missouri employers are not required to permit or accommodate the possession, consumption, or sale of marijuana in the workplace or on employer-owned property. Employers can also prohibit and/or take action against an employee for working while under the influence of marijuana during work hours. So, while recreational marijuana is no longer illegal in Missouri, its irresponsible usage can still be the basis of adverse employment action if employees violate the prohibitionary policies set and enforced by Missouri employers.
Individuals are prohibited by law from operating any motor vehicle or other motorized form of transport while under the influence of marijuana. This prohibition applies to anyone operating motor vehicles inside or outside the workplace. Though some states currently enforce legal limits for THC blood concentration to determine marijuana-impaired driving, Missouri will maintain its zero-tolerance policy regarding marijuana-related DUIs and DWIs.
According to the Kansas City Star: “When someone is pulled over because they are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, the police officer will do a set of tests to see if the driver is impaired… However, there is no level of exposure that is being tested. People are arrested if they are found to be impaired and unable to drive safely.”
New and enhanced protections are in effect for users with valid medical marijuana patient ID cards. Missouri first recognized the legal use of medical marijuana back in November 2018. Four years later, Amendment 3 has expanded on that prior legislation by providing employment protections to those with valid medical marijuana cards. The new law specifies that employers are now “prohibited from discriminating against or taking adverse action against an employee with a valid medical marijuana patient ID card for:
- Off-site use of medical marijuana during non-working hours or
- Testing positive for marijuana in an employer-administered drug test” (Source).
However, exceptions built into the law exist to allow employers to maintain a safe workplace. Specifically, these protections do not apply to:
- Missouri employers who would “otherwise lose a monetary or license-related benefit under federal law (i.e., DOT regulations)” by permitting employee use of legal, medical marijuana (Source).
- Medical users who “used, possessed or was under the influence of medical marijuana at work or during the hours of employment” (Source).
- Medical users who legally use marijuana in a way that “affects the ability to perform job-related employment responsibilities, affects the safety of others or conflicts with a bona fide occupational qualification” relevant to their specific employment (Source).
Employees can still get drug tested at work. Under Amendment 3, employers still retain the right to (1) require regular drug tests and (2) discipline employees who test positive for recreational marijuana use. On the other hand, employees with registered medical marijuana ID cards are given protection from employment-related discrimination when they test positive due to lawful consumption off-site outside of working hours.
According to Lance Davis, Head of NW Missouri NORML: “[Employers] cannot terminate or refuse to hire medical patients solely on the basis that they are a patient, or that they have tested positive for THC in their system” (Source).
Despite the new legislation, marijuana (THC) drug testing and “legal limit” guidelines are still hotly debated topics with numerous hurdles ahead. Since Missouri’s first step toward legalization in 2018, there still exists no reliable test or parameters for measuring an individual’s “level” of marijuana impairment or influence. This fact, in addition to THC’s potentially long window of detection (from 12 hours to 30 days), means that employees may test positive for weeks after consuming marijuana, even if they are not actually impaired at the testing time.
Such ambiguity makes it difficult for employers and law enforcement to determine impairment levels objectively, hence the need for Amendment 3’s anti-discrimination legislation.
Attorney Eric Bartlett‘s Takeaways
With Amendment 3 going into effect, Northland Injury Law attorney, Eric Bartlett, offers Missouri employees the following words of advice:
- To recreational users: Don’t plan on having a free pass if you get hurt at work and your employer drug tests you. If you’re a recreational user of marijuana, it’s legal now in Missouri, BUT without a medical marijuana card, you will have problems getting your benefits.
- To medical users: Even with a medical marijuana card, you may have a fight on your hands until employers and their worker’s compensation insurance companies know more about this law. Also, there very well may need to be a change in the worker’s compensation laws to go along with the changes this new law brings.
Injured on the Job or in an Accident in Missouri? Text “HURT” to 22222 or call (816) 400-4878 today for a free personal injury consultation with our top-rated legal team.