Medical Marijuana Is Now Available in Louisiana
After four years of policy debate, rulemaking, testing, and approval, medical marijuana became available for purchase at nine Louisiana pharmacies yesterday.
Passed in 2015, the Therapeutic Use of Marijuana Act allows specially licensed Louisiana physicians to recommend medicinal marijuana for therapeutic use to Louisiana residents suffering from debilitating medical conditions. The Louisiana Legislature, the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, and the Department of Agriculture have worked together over the past four years to clearly define the parameters in which the alternative medical treatment can be manufactured, prescribed, sold, and used.
The problem, however, is that Louisiana’s medical marijuana law fails to address the employment relationship, and thus creates a potential cause of action against employers who discriminate against medical marijuana users. Put simply, we don’t know for sure whether Louisiana law requires employers to accommodate medical marijuana use by employees with qualified disabilities.
While current marijuana users are excluded from federal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, some state courts have determined that employers must accommodate medical marijuana users who occupy non-safety sensitive positions. This is a very fact-intensive issue that requires consideration of both the industry and state in which the employer operates, as well as the specific duties of the employee. Eventually, the issue will be addressed by a Louisiana court. Until then, Louisiana employers can take steps to avoid potential liability by contacting counsel, evaluating their current policies, and clearly defining their safety-sensitive positions.