Meeting focuses on issues with medical marijuana in the workplace

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — As more and more Coloradans seek relief from pain through medical marijuana use, employers are having to consider how to keep the trend from causing legal headaches.

“There are a lot of land mines out there and I don’t want to step on one,” said Dave Malehorn of Professional Auto Body & Frame in Glenwood Springs.

Malehorn was one of a few dozen business representatives who attended a Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association seminar Tuesday on issues of medical marijuana and the workplace.

The use of medical marijuana in the state raises questions for employers and employees, and landlords and tenants, said Glenwood attorney Daniel Wennogle, who led the seminar.

As an example, the measure that state voters passed in 2000 to allow medical marijuana use spells out that health insurance doesn’t have to cover such use. But it’s silent on whether coverage might be sought from worker’s compensation or auto insurance, Wennogle said.

It also doesn’t require employers to allow medical marijuana use in the workplace, but doesn’t speak to use before coming to work, he said. While the measure doesn’t create a right for an employee to sue for being terminated for medical marijuana use, it’s still a legal question that may arise, Wennogle said.

As employers ponder how medical marijuana can affect things such as their drug testing policies for job candidates and employees, Wennogle envisions state lawmakers eventually starting to address such issues.

“And there may be court decisions that beat the Legislature to the punch,” Wennogle said.

For now, the Legislature’s focus has been on how to best regulate the booming business of medical marijuana dispensaries. Wennogle said the fact that proposed legislation would limit a caregiver to five patients at one time is something to consider for landlords thinking of renting to a dispensary.

Wennogle said he thinks it’s a bad idea to rent to a dispensary because Colorado’s medical marijuana law provides no protection from federal drug laws that could lead to seizure of a dispensary building and prison time for the property owner.

Janet McNutt, co-owner of Desktop Consulting, a Glenwood Springs computer consulting firm, said she wonders what the company’s legal rights and liabilities may be should an employee get into an accident while driving to see a customer, and then say he or she used medical marijuana before work.

“It just seems like a real gray area right now,” she said.


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