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Mississippi Becomes the Next State to Legalize Medicinal Marijuana

On February 2, 2022, Governor Reeves signed the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act (SB 2095), legalizing the use of medicinal marijuana to treat particular incapacitating medical conditions. Although the law was signed recently, the state’s permit department is not accepting license applications until July 1, 2022. Once applicable, the following debilitating medical conditions would be permitted to use of medicinal marijuana

  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Glaucoma
  • Spastic quadriplegia
  • Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • Hepatitis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Sickle-cell anemia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Agitation of dementia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Autism
  • Pain refractory to appropriate opioid management, diabetic/peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord disease or severe injury, or the treatment of these conditions

Employer Protections

Even though the state may be allowing particular individuals to use marijuana for medical treatment, the law does not provide blanket employment protections for medicinal marijuana users. As such, SB 2095 outlines a number of provisions that provide protection to employers when dealing with cannabis use in the workplace:

  • Employers are not mandated to permit, accommodate, or allow the medical use of medical cannabis, or to modify any job or working conditions of any employee who engages in the medical use of medical cannabis or who for any reason seeks to engage in the medical use of medical cannabis;
  • Employers are able to refuse to hire, discharge, discipline, or otherwise take an adverse employment action against an individual with respect to hiring, discharging, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment as a result, in whole or in part, of that individual’s medical use of medical cannabis, regardless of the individual’s impairment or lack of impairment resulting from the medical use of medical cannabis;
  • Employers are able to establish or enforce a drug screening policy;
  • Employers are not required to provide coverage for a medical, pharmacy or health care service to pay for or reimburse any other individual or entity for costs associated with the medical use of cannabis;
  • SB 2095 will not interfere with, impair or impede any federal restrictions or requirements on employment or contracting, including, but not limited to, regulations adopted by the United States Department of Transportation in Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations;
  • SB 2095 does not permit, authorize or establish an individual’s right to commence or undertake any legal action against an employer for refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against an individual with respect to hiring, discharging, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges or employment due to the individual’s medical use of medical cannabis;
  • Employers nor their Worker’s Compensation insurance carriers will be responsible for paying for or reimbursing an individual for the costs associated with the medical use of cannabis;
    • SB 2095 does not affect, alter or otherwise impact an employer’s right to deny or establish legal defenses to the payment of workers’ compensation benefits to an employee on the basis of a positive drug test or refusal to submit to or cooperate with a drug test, as provided under Miss. Code Sections 71-3-7 and 71-3-121;
    • SB 2095 does not affect, alter or otherwise impact the workers’ compensation premium discount available to employers who establish a drug-free workplace program in accordance with Miss. Code Section 71-3-201;
  • Employees are not permitted to act with negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, in breach of any applicable professional or occupational standard of care, or to effect an intentional wrong, as a result, in whole or in part, of that individual’s medical use of medical cannabis; and
  • Smoking or vaping medicinal marijuana is not permitted in a public place or in a motor vehicle including:
    • Operating, navigating, or being in actual physical control of any motor vehicle, aircraft, train, motorboat or other conveyance in a manner that would violate state or federal law as a result, in whole or in part, of that individual’s medical use of medical cannabis;

Next Steps for Employers

Given the complexity surrounding the protections provided to both employees and employers through the passing of SB 2095, employers are encouraged to seek the assistance of legal counsel to determine if any changes should be made to any existing company policies and procedures related to substance use as well as navigating any other compliance related issues that may occur with the law’s implementation.

HR Works, Inc., headquartered at 200 WillowBrook Office Park in Fairport (Rochester), New York, with an office in East Syracuse, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.