New Legislation on the Horizon for Florida’s Medicinal Cannabis Patients

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Image: Shannon Laura/Shutterstock

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Medicinal cannabis patients in Florida may soon be able to breathe a bit easier. Both of the state’s legislative chambers are considering adopting bills—each known as the Medical Marijuana Employee Protection Act—that would protect registered patients from losing their jobs over medicinal cannabis. If implemented, many employees terminated simply for being a registered cannabis patient would be permitted to sue their employers.

Not every patient will be shielded from potential termination if the proposals become law. The bills provide exceptions that include those who handle hazardous materials, operate heavy machinery, carry firearms, work with children, and those who oversee critical infrastructure and utility systems.

Under the new bills, employers would have to justify why they chose not to hire a candidate due to their medicinal cannabis registration. Employers would also have to prove a candidate could not adequately perform their job responsibilities because they are medicinal cannabis patients.

According to the lawmakers who filed the bills, cannabis patients deserve job protections and employers require a clear set of guidelines by which to abide. 

“Employers are still able to enforce a zero-tolerance, drug-free workplace and are not required to make reasonable accommodations for employees who use medical marijuana, now a constitutionally-sanctioned right,” state Senator Lori Berman said in a January press release after filing the legislation. “We must do our part to ensure that their use of safe and effective medicine will not impede their right to work.”

“Right now, there is no guidance for employers as they deal with this new medical marijuana system,” state Representative Tina Polsky said. “This legislation would provide crucial guidelines for employers and protect employees from being discriminated against for their legal use of marijuana.”

Florida residents voted to approve medicinal cannabis in November of 2016, though the process of finalizing regulations took some time. Dispensaries were not operational until the Spring of 2018. Recent petitions to include a recreational cannabis measure on the state’s ballot for November 2020 have thus far been unsuccessful.

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