Floridians vote yes to medical marijuana, but employers may still say no

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment for medical marijuana on election night, but it may be some time before people with recognized medical conditions can take advantage of it.

The amendmentallows for marijuana use by anyone with a “Debilitating Medical Condition” such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, etc.

Still, the state legislature must act before that can happen.

Even after a state law is passed, some employers may prevent employees from using the drug.

“Currently there are only five states that have worker protections. It used to be only two,” says Chris Cano with the Central Florida chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Cano’s group pushed for Amendment 2 in Florida but Cano knows passage of the amendment is only the beginning legally.

“Worker protections were not in the amendment. Therefore, our state legislatures are going to have to take it upon themselves and we the people are going to have to lobby them and ask them for worker protections,” says Cano.

Worker protections would prevent employers from firing employees for the use of marijuana.

Even in Colorado, where recreational use of marijuana is legal, some companies have fired employees who test positive for pot.

Cano believes employers shouldn’t be able to control what an employee does before or after work, but he admits it will be a tough road legally before employees will be protected at work.

“They don’t have any control over our freedoms and what we do, but then again, having a job is a privileged and in a right to work state like Florida the chips are stacked against the workers,” says Cano

Darren McClain is a Tampa attorney who specializes in employment law and McClain says this is an area of law that is still evolving.

“You could have some arguments. If you have a disability and you need that accommodation and it doesn’t impact your work, certainly you could make that argument under the Americans with Disabilities Act but that’s going to have to be litigated and it’s going to take some time,” says McClain.

Still McClain says even if laws are passed to protect employees the employer will still be able to protect their business.

“No employer is going to allow an employee to come in whether they need marijuana or not if they are impaired,”  says McClain

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