Employers could fire workers who use medical marijuana

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JEFFERSON CITY - Even though medical marijuana will be legal in Missouri next year, people using it could still be fired.

A Senate committee met Thursday to hear a bill that would allow employers in Missouri to let the employees take a drug test for medical marijuana and discipline them if the test comes back positive.

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, said his constituents are concerned employers will not be able to conduct a drug test to their workers.

Amendment 2, the bill legalizing medical marijuana, doesn't mention the matter. 

“There are many employers reluctant to drug test and operate as they have in the past,” Sater said.

He calls it a gray area.

"It is my intention, with this bill, to bring some clarity to the statute by specifying employers can still drug test as they have been doing up until now,” Sater said.

Medical marijuana advocate Dan Viets said he thinks this bill is "pointless and ill-advised."

“We don’t deprive patients of the ability to work if they are using other medication under a doctor supervision," he said.

Viets said there's no "rational reason" why a patient should be subject to firing or other discipline if they are following doctor's orders.

The bill would not require employers to perform a drug test, but would give them the option to do so. Sater said there may be no other way to know if they're eligible to work.

“There’s really no way to test if someone is under the influence or not,” Sater said.

Viets said he thinks the bill is an attempt to control a person's behavior all the time.

“A drug test for marijuana does not detect active THC. It detects the presence of the inactive by products of the metabolization of THC,” he said.

Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug according to the DEA, which means, it technically has no medical use.

“There’s certain occupations that you want a certain type of personnel and the employers should have that ability to determine that,” Sater said.

Viets said that contention is a fallacy.

“It’s as if we were going to say that a person operating heavy machinery can never, ever drink a beer or drink a glass of wine,” he said.

As of Thursday, there is no formal opposition to Sater’s bill, but he expects some issues when it reaches the floor and Viets said it will and should encounter opposition.

“I feel like it’s a bad idea, and once people understand the facts about this issue, that they’re not likely to support this bill,” Viets said.

Sater called it a work in progress.

“You think you’ve got everything covered and, you know, you have some other opinions from some other people, maybe from research,” he said.

The bill needs to be voted out of committee to move to the floor.