Recreational cannabis sales finally launched in Massachusetts last week, but people looking to partake in the newly legalized substance should proceed with caution. The state doesn't have any legislation protecting cannabis consumers from employment termination just yet. So employers can still subject workers to random drug tests and fire those who test positive for cannabis.
"The law at this point is silent as to whether off-duty recreational use is restricted in any way," Eric LeBlanc - a partner with Cambridge-based Bennett & Belfort and specialist in employment law - told The Boston Herald. "That being said, it's likely that a company can terminate an employee for off-duty recreational use because of the general employment-at-will doctrine in Massachusetts."
There haven't been any court cases involving someone who was fired for recreational cannabis consumption in Massachusetts, but LeBlanc believes we are likely to see litigation in the future. However, medical marijuana patients did receive a big win last year when a women went to court after her job offer was rescinded because she tested positive for cannabis. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in her favor, saying that medical marijuana patients can not be discriminated against in this way.
LeBlanc believes the law will eventually change to allow employees to enjoy a puff in their off-hours. And he noted that some companies have begun to move towards an "evidence-based" system where employers are only subjected to a drug test if there is reason to believe they're impaired on the job.
Of course, protections for employees at the federal level would be the best-case scenario for cannabis consumers, but since the feds still define marijuana as being as dangerous as heroin, we shouldn't hold our breath on that one.