On May 29, 2014, Governor Dayton signed a law to implement a medical marijuana program in Minnesota.  See S.F. 2470.  In general, the law authorizes the Minnesota Department of Health to create a patient registry for the use of medical marijuana for certain specified conditions (such as cancer, terminal illness, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, etc…).  The program will not go into effect until July 1, 2015.

The medical marijuana law includes certain employment-related legal protections for patients enrolled in the new program.  Specifically, the law provides that:

Unless a failure to do so would violate federal law or regulations or cause an employer to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or regulations, an employer may not discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon either of the following:

(1) the person’s status as a patient enrolled in the registry program under sections 152.22 to 152.37; or

(2) a patient’s positive drug test for cannabis components or metabolites, unless the patient used, possessed, or was impaired by medical cannabis on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment.

The law further provides that “[a]n employee who is required to undergo employer drug testing pursuant to section 181.953 may present verification of enrollment in the patient registry as part of the employee’s explanation under section 181.953, subdivision 6.”  These provisions of the law will be codified at Minn. Stat. § 152.32, subd. 3(c–d).

Takeaway:  Before the medical marijuana program goes into effect in 2015, employers will need to familiarize themselves with the new legal protections for employees enrolled in the program.  It’s important to note, however, that the law includes exceptions for compliance with federal laws, regulations, or licensing requirements.  In addition, the new law does not protect an employee’s use, possession, or impairment by medical marijuana “on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment.”