Medical Marijuana: Fears and Realities

By: Glen Wieland

Medical Marijuana

With the passage of the medical marijuana amendment in Florida and the national trend to legalize THC and CBD (the two primary drugs in marijuana), the implications of its use in the workplace are substantial. I have heard many fears about what might happen now that the use of marijuana for medical reasons is legal in our state.

I saw the commercials creating fear that it would be sold to children like candy in a candy store. However, those fears may be largely unfounded, as marijuana is still illegal to use for any reason on a federal level and federal law takes precedence over state laws.

In a decision in one leading case, a quadriplegic working for Dish Network and using medical marijuana (which was known by his employer) under a doctor’s prescription to help control his muscle spasms was terminated for violating the drug-free workplace policy of Dish Network. He could only work if he could control his severe muscle spasms as he did customer service phone work. He sued the employer for wrongful termination, as he wanted his job back and did not want to be on Social Security Disability Benefits. Because marijuana is still an illegal drug on the federal level and he worked for Dish Network (a national company), the Supreme Court of Colorado held that his termination was lawful. The sad part of this case is that this person is no longer working and is now being supported by the government on Medicare and disability benefits paid by our tax dollars.

28 states have approved medical marijuana and many other states have pending laws to legalize medical marijuana. Even on the federal level, there is a push to change marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 drug. This would move it from being classified on the same level as heroin to the same classification as cocaine, which is a Schedule 2 drug. If that happens, the FDA will likely approve it for doctors to be able to prescribe it. It looks like things are going to change in the near future for THC and CBD to be able to be processed and used as legal drugs.

However, as long as marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, the fear that health insurance companies and workers’ compensation insurance companies will have to pay for it will remain unfounded. There are cases that have already decided that insurance companies do not have to pay for medical marijuana. Even California courts have ruled that insurance does not have to pay. The fear that people will be “high” at work and not be fired from that position is unfounded, and the fear that insurance will have to pay for people to get “high” is equally incorrect. For every fear of what the passage of medical marijuana might do, there are many people who have severe medical problems who will get help without the side effects of many of our current opioids and other dangerous medications. If regulating the processing opium and cocaine into legally prescribed medications, why can’t our elected officials pass regulations to do the same for medical marijuana? I believe they can, and will, properly regulate its use. However, until the Florida legislature passes regulatory laws, medical marijuana will not be available at your local pharmacy.

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