Medical marijuana patient struggles to get full-time job in Florida. What to know about your rights

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Medical marijuana is legal and popular in the Sunshine State. Right now, nearly 850,000 Floridians have an active medical marijuana card.

The state-issued card allows qualified patients to get treatment, but can they get a job? NewsNation affiliate WFLA-TV spoke to one patient about his uphill battle.

Steven Jenkins applied to be a security guard and was in the final stages of the process. The company asked him to take a drug test. Steven says he was honest and let them know he has a prescription for medical marijuana. That’s when he says he was eliminated, right on the spot.

So, can a company do that?

Medical marijuana dispensaries have popped up across the state. Nearly 850,000 Floridians rely on the medication for treatment. While it is available in Florida, it’s still illegal under federal law.

That friction is putting patients like Steven in a tough spot. Steven said he jumped through hoops to qualify for a card. But now, he can’t seem to get a good full-time job. He keeps getting disqualified and he thinks that’s wrong.

“I’m subject to jobs that don’t drug test, as a disabled veteran, and so I have to work at places like the gas station,” Steven said. “With somebody who is already struggling with depression, it doesn’t help the only thing you look forward to is your part-time job at the gas station.”

“I feel like the state of Florida should be writing legislation to protect people.”

WFLA asked employment attorney Terin Cremer if employers must accommodate workers who consume medical marijuana.

Cremer says companies can ban use at work to ensure you are not impaired on the job, but she says it’s risky to have an outright ban on smoking marijuana. The reason? The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, which protects people with disabilities from discrimination.

“So, while federally medical marijuana is not recognized, as opposed to under the state of Florida, federally disabilities are recognized,” Cremer said. “Disabilities means things that you can see and oftentimes things that you cannot see.”

“An accommodation could be as simple as this person is permitted continue to use medical marijuana outside of the workplace,” Cremer added.

So, what recourse is there for Steven? Cremer says he should reach back out to the prospective employer, say he has a disability and that he is requesting a medical accommodation.

Additionally, Steven can turn to the EEOC and file a complaint, alleging discrimination.

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