General Question

john65pennington's avatar

Should the use of medical marijuana be allowed in the workplace?

Asked by john65pennington (29187points) July 3rd, 2010

WalMart worker of five years was terminated for the use of medical marijuana on the job. worker twisted his knee, while working at WalMart and was given a mandatory drug/alcohol screening. the positive results for marijuana, resulted in a termination from WalMart. worker has an inoperable brain tumor and his doctor recommended the marijuana to help ease his pain. WalMart did not see it this way and he was fired. WalMart stated his use of marijuana on the job, places other WalMart workers and customers at a safety risk. the worker has sued WalMart. Question: should the use of prescribed medical marijuana be allowed in the workplace or is it a threat to the safety of the other workers?

Source: Reuters

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53 Answers

missingbite's avatar

Totally up to Walmart. They make the rules and workers have to follow them. I feel bad for the employee but it is what it is.

cockswain's avatar

If someone is dying of a brain tumor and pot eases the pain, that individual should notify management of his need and be given an appropriate skills test while high to see what sort of work would be suitable for that individual. In this case, do we know the worker twisted his knee b/c he was high or because he has an inoperable brain tumor that impairs him otherwise? In either event, Walmart continues to be a soulless, vile place for showing this man zero compassion when they could easily afford otherwise.

SmashTheState's avatar

Almost by definition, anything Wal-Mart does is wrong. I hope they get sued for monstrous sums of money, but of course the courts and the government are owned by Mal-Wart and the other big corporations.

Jabe73's avatar

No way should it be allowed on the job. It was bad enough for me to be around people coming into work hungover/half drunk. I thought however even if a state would allow marijuana use of any kind companies still have the option to terminate any employees who would fail a drug test even if the employee didn’t use the stuff on the job (during a random drug test for example).

john65pennington's avatar

Do you think that if the worker had notified WalMart of his use of medical marijuana, that the outcome here would have been different?

Also, if WalMart had known of his medical marijuana useage, would he have been considered a handicapped employee?
WalMart is big on hiring handicapped people.

Your_Majesty's avatar

If he already knew that marijuana(even the prescribed one) is forbidden in his working place he could use it after work or at least not in front of other Walmart costumer. He can do nothing. the rule is still the rule. Whether or not it poses a threat to other people Marijuana should not be used in public. What if some children look at him while he’s using this thing? This could lead to many unwanted/unexpected consequences.

jaytkay's avatar

I had a Vicodin prescription once after minor surgery. I wouldn’t take them during working hours. I wouldn’t want someone smoking pot at work anymore than I would want drunks or meth users on the job.

On the other hand, I think legalization would be a good idea. Marijuana prohibition is only good for the prison industry and drug traffickers.

But the thought of even more people walking around high gives me pause. If you think you get blank stares from store clerks now…

missingbite's avatar

@john65pennington It could have been different but I doubt it. Rules are in place for a reason and most of the time, companies have a zero tolerance policy. While Walmart isn’t my idea of a stellar company, they do a lot of good things. How many of the greeters that you see hired at Walmart would be hired anywhere else?

cockswain's avatar

OK, just out of curiosity, who here has smoked pot? People acting like it is dangerous or comparing it to alcohol are misguided. So what if a child sees someone high? Neither you nor the child can tell unless they are super, super ripped.

Andreas's avatar

Just a thought. The legal use of tobacco is declining for health reasons and the like, and yet marijuana is making its presence in our lives for health reasons. But it’s all smoke. Makes me think.

john65pennington's avatar

missingbit, i agree with you. i am just trying to see this mans situation from all different angles. i am with WalMart in this case. its called liability and WalMart does not need any more lawsuits. safety is the key factor here. he will probably lose his case in court, based strictly on illegal possession. some states have passed laws allowing medical marijuana, but its still a Federal violation. the Federal Law overides state laws.

jaytkay's avatar

OK, just out of curiosity, who here has smoked pot? People acting like it is dangerous or comparing it to alcohol are misguided.

So it has no effect? Should airline pilots smoke pot on the job. EMTs? Would you be OK with that?

cockswain's avatar

@jaytkay Are you personally familiar with the effects, or just heard things?

missingbite's avatar

@john65pennington We see eye to eye on this one.

@jaytkay As an airline pilot I hope it NEVER comes to that. Some of us have a hard enough time flying without the pot!!! J/K!!

jaytkay's avatar

@Andreas The legal use of tobacco is declining for health reasons and the like, and yet marijuana is making its presence in our lives for health reasons. But it’s all smoke.

I wouldn’t think people smoke medical marijuana like cigarettes – a pack a day or more.

But that’s just a guess.

missingbite's avatar

@cockswain I have personal experience with pot and it does slow peoples reaction times.

jaytkay's avatar

Are you personally familiar with the effects…?

Yes, as a teenager I smoked some pot. Became bored with it about the time I reached college.

cockswain's avatar

@missingbite I don’t entirely agree with that statement. Within the context of a medical marijuana user at walmart, I think there are plenty of positions that person could handle that wouldn’t be impacted by the usage. Besides, let’s not ignore the generally dumb people that function “legally” in our society. Way more accidents are likely caused by a lack of common sense or general stupidity rather than marijuana use. What if the marijuana user’s “impaired” reaction time is still far faster than a man over, say 50? Who cares.

Andreas's avatar

@jaytkay You’re probably correct on the consumption point, but smoke is smoke. Who would stand in a forest fire and breathe deeply? When firefighters and others get overwhelmed by smoke they’re given oxygen. While smoking is not in the same league as a forest fire in volume, it is still smoke. This still makes me think.

cockswain's avatar

@Andreas Pesticide treated tobacco smoke passing through a chemically-laden cigarette filter isn’t the same as a joint. Agreed the smoke is harmful, but not the same.

@jaytkay So what specific problem do you see with a Walmart employee stocking a shelf while high?

missingbite's avatar

@cockswain I’m not saying they “can’t” do a job or that they wouldn’t be “better” than some others. You asked if we had personal experience and I said yes, it slows reactions. You can’t regulate “stupid” but you can regulate pot.

Facade's avatar

If employees are allowed to be on prescription drugs while on the job, they should be allowed to be high within a certain limit. It is completely possible to be high and functional.

Andreas's avatar

Just a general comment. In the end it won’t matter a hill of beans what we decide because any court case(s) will take their course and that will be that.

@cockswain Good point and I agree. Also, I read a report that cigarettes have contained plutonium in them for about 40 years. But that’s a side point to this discussion.

cockswain's avatar

@missingbite But I thought you were all about the gov’t not regulating people’s freedoms in any way Let’s hypothetically say a person is in the 75% percentile for human intelligence. They smoke a joint and possibly (and this is an arbitrary number) impair themselves to an intelligence level of say 70%. They are still smarter and more capable than most people. What’s the problem?

Jabe73's avatar

@john65pennington I am certain that any company would have the full discretion to not hire anybody who would admit to using any federally controlled substance regardless of any state laws so no I do not think him admitting to using marijuana for medical purposes would be any factor. Companies in fact have even terminated employees for failing breath tests for nicotine smoke (not a handicap issue there) but federal laws would prevail here I believe.

missingbite's avatar

@cockswain I’m not sure where you got the idea that I don’t believe in government regulation. I just believe in limited regulation. Again, you can’t regulate intelligence. Pot is illegal and that is that. I’m not even saying if I think pot should be illegal. That is another topic. For the OP’s situation, I agree with Walmart.

cockswain's avatar

Possibly I’ve confused you for someone else, or misconstrued your views. Medical marijuana is not illegal, and that’s the crux here. Sure, I can’t come to work high, but if I can’t reasonably function without my medicine then I’ll either be in pain or won’t do a good job.

SmashTheState's avatar

@Andreas Incidentally, smoking is not the only way marijuana can be consumed. It can be eaten in any food made with fat (THC being fat-soluble), taken in THC pills, and inhaled with a vapourizer, none of which involve smoke.

missingbite's avatar

@cockswain correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t only legal in 14 states or has that changed. I also though it was a against federal law. @john65pennington mentioned that above.

Andreas's avatar

@SmashTheState I knew about eating it as in cake, etc. I didn’t know about the other methods, though. Thanks for the input.

cockswain's avatar

OK, let’s recenter this. This question is should it be allowed in the workplace. If it should, then it should also be legal to do so. So while I do respect a workplace to have the right to set its own culture regarding recreational pot use, medical pot is medicine in this case. In this specific case, the user has a brain tumor and was prescribed medicine. Following my belief that it won’t impair that person to any unsafe level below the average employed moron, that person should absolutely be allowed to continue to experience the rest of their days employed as well as not in pain.

I generally find most people opposed to pot use aren’t subjectively familiar with its effects. They have simply been told “this is an illegal drug and all illegal drugs are bad” and think there is something immoral about it. Talk about a lack of free thinking. Pot is a separate case from heroin, meth, and crack.

missingbite's avatar

@cockswain I would agree that marijuana in small amounts has no more “affect” on a person than a lot of medications. If it were legal, I would be fine with it. If there was not a federal law against it, I would think, Walmart would be ok with it. With a prescription from a real doctor. Not the kind of shops you see all over L.A.

cockswain's avatar

Well I believe we have reached a reasonable agreement!

missingbite's avatar

@cockswain I agree, well played.

tinyfaery's avatar

If this occurred in a state with medicinal marijuana laws the fired employee has a pretty good lawsuit.

Many people take prescribed drugs, on a regular basis, that do more to intoxicate you than pot does, most of those drugs being psychotropics. Adderall, an ADD drug, is basically speed. If people can’t smoke marijuana at work, when prescribed by a doctor, then I guess all of the people taking psychotropic drugs should be fired. Ooh, ooh, it can be the next big, American witch-hunt.

anartist's avatar

Do you mean toking up in the employee lounge? Think of all the other employees wishing he wouldn’t bogart that joint.

An employee that ill, never mind one smoking medical marijuana [and if the pain is really bad you probably are not getting high] may have limited ability to work and may therefore be on some sort of “light duty” so would not pose a problem in the workplace. Allowing this ill person to continue to work if he or she needs to would be a decency granted by a good employer.

@jaytkay me for one

cazzie's avatar

Gee, if I was dying of a brain tumour…. I wouldn’t be spending my days working at WalMart. But, yeah, silly to be fired for taking a drug that is prescribed by your doctor. Seems an infringement of his rights in that State.

perspicacious's avatar

This is a subject I’ve been following for a while. The California legislature has had bill after bill to protect workers’ from this exact thing. So far it’s a no go. It seems to me that if the state allows medical marijuana but gives the patient no protection from employer retribution, a great paradox exists. I have found few in the legal community who agree with me. They continue to feel that the employer should be able to prevent the use of pot by employees. The reasoning I hear is the lack of specific dosage prescribed by the doctor. It seems if you have a prescription for medical marijuana, there is no limit on how much to use, as is the case with other prescriptions. It will be interesting to see how other states handle this as more and more of them are passing compassionate use legislation.

tinyfaery's avatar

@perspicacious Are you sure all people take the recommended dose of their prescribed drugs?

Seek's avatar

Does WalMart have a history of firing employees who are prescribed opiate drugs, or is that “positive” result ignored? How about steroids?

They can make their own rules, sure, but they need to be consistent in following them to avoid discrimination suits. Opiates are equally prohibited without a prescription. Their “zero tolerance” policy can either include prescribed drugs, or exclude prescribed drugs. They cannot pick and choose.

perspicacious's avatar

@tinyfaery Of course not. But when there is a prescribed dose on records, that can protect an employee. With marijuana, there doesn’t seem to be a prescribed dose. That was my point.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think it’s wrong if they fired him just because he failed a drug test since he has a prescription for it. I don’t think it’s wrong if he was showing up at work under the influence or smoking it on the job and they fired him for that.

As a nurse, there are a lot of medications that I can not take right before going to work or while at work. I have to be on my toes the whole time I’m at work and therefore can’t be under the influence of a medication that will interfere with my ability to do my job. The hospital’s top priority is patient safety (and not being sued if someone messes up while being under the influence of a medication).

john65pennington's avatar

I think the situation with WalMart is strictly liability. if this employee caused a serious accident to a customer or accident to himelf, the store would be liable. this case will be a pioneer not only for WalMart, but for the rest of the business industry to follow. i see and understand everyone’s thoughts and answers. the bottom line, of course, is money.

gasman's avatar

Even if you favor legalization, I think you have to admit that marijuana (medical or otherwise) impairs cognition in characteristic ways—short-term memory, staying on task, & peripheral awareness are all affected, even if it doesn’t produce ataxia and dysphasia like alcohol. To answer @jaytkay‘s question: No, I don’t want airline pilots or EMTs smoking on the job—though what they do in their time off is of no concern to me & wouldn’t worry me if pot were legal.

Whether a Wal-Mart employee can function while stoned is moot (How could you tell? :) There are plenty of jobs where mild to moderate impairment by a psychoactive drug is not a problem . People who are mentally disabled can function effectively in many jobs.

I don’t think airlines are hiring them as pilots, however. How is usage of marijuana—even out of medical necessity—any different?

cazzie's avatar

right, so marijuana impairs cognition…. but a brain tumour surely doesn’t? This is strange. He can’t be discriminated against because of his medical condition.. is that right? But the treatment for the medical condition is open… and come on… he’s working at Walmart. He’s not a nurse, not a pilot. Why does he want to work there anyway. He’s got a brain tumour and it’s not like he needs the job to keep his medical insurance.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@cazzie It’s not just about what he could do to other people at work. He could hurt himself as well and Walmart could be sued or held liable through workman’s comp. They are protecting themselves by not allowing employees to be under the influence of drugs while at work.

judochop's avatar

Man, chalk this one up for another great reason to hate Wal*Mart.
If you can’t work at Wal*Mart stoned then what can you do?

I would be having my lawyer ask what would have happened if I tested positive for Vicodin which I know people use in many work places.

cazzie's avatar

@Seaofclouds he could hurt himself at work because he has a tumour in his head.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@cazzie He could, it depends on the tumor. I would hope that he has shared any restrictions his doctor has given him based on the tumor he has. Tumors in the brain cause symptoms based on where they are located in the brain. It could be that the location of his tumor leads him not to have any work restrictions and does not pose a risk to him.

cazzie's avatar

@Seaofclouds All he would need is some sort of medical clearance from his doctor to work, but would he even have to disclose his medical issues to his employer?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@cazzie If his condition limited what he was able to do at work, he would need documentation of that for them from his doctor. If he has no restrictions, he wouldn’t have to tell them anything. He wouldn’t have to tell his employer what the condition is, just what the restrictions are.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

As long as he wasn’t smoking on the job, I have no problem with it. I mean, since it shows up in your pee for up to 30 days, there’s no reason to think he was high at WalMart.

Ron_C's avatar

Walmart and big corporations take any and all means to avoid paying insurance claims. It doesn’t matter to them if you used in the work place or a week ago. They use it to avoid claims and expenses.

I think drug tests should be illegal except in cases where the person operates machinery that will endanger others, like pilots, bus drivers, and crane operators.

There is no constitutional reason to take the test if your job involves stacking shelves or working at a desk. This is just another intrusion into your life and a sign of our shrinking freedom.

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