On July 20, 2019, Pennsylvania expanded its list of 17 “serious medical conditions” that qualify for medical marijuana usage under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) to now include anxiety and Tourette Syndrome. Previously, the MMA limited access to designated ailments like cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and inflammatory bowel disease, and terminal illnesses (defined as a life expectancy of 12 months or less). These conditions resulted in about 110,000 registered medical marijuana users under the MMA.
Given the rates of diagnosis, the addition of anxiety as a qualifying condition is especially likely to increase the medical marijuana user population in the Commonwealth. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 19 percent of U.S. adults have experienced anxiety disorders in the past year, with anxiety manifesting at a higher rate for women than for men, and about 31 percent of U.S. adults experience anxiety disorders in their lifetime.1 Tourette Syndrome, on the other hand, affects approximately 1 to 10 in 1,000 children.2
Employers should review their current drug-testing policies to ensure that they are prepared for a potential influx of medical marijuana users. To comply with Pennsylvania law, employers should clearly identify standards of conduct for their employees, ensure that adverse actions against applicants or employees are not based solely on an individual’s status as a medical marijuana user, and be mindful of the risks associated with failing to engage in an interactive dialogue regarding potential accommodations for medical marijuana use.