The Straight Dope on Drug Tests and Medicinal Marijuana

Your employee takes a random drug test per his or her contract of employment and it comes back positive for marijuana use.  Case closed.  The worker is out, right?

Wait just one minute.

What you discover upon further investigation is that his or her doctor has legally prescribed the (typically) illegal substance under a medicinal marijuana script.  Now, you’re confused.  Did the employee violate the terms of his or her employment or not?

Although every case will have to be independently evaluated, if the employee in question falls under the auspices of the Department of Transportation’s Office of Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation — 49 CFR Part 40, at 40.151(e) — he or she has broken the rules.

Even if the prescription for medicinal marijuana is valid, DOT does not authorize it to be a valid explanation for a positive drug test.  (According to DOT, such workers could be pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, ship captains, etc.)

Therefore, it may make sense to notify all such employees who fall under the DOT’s D&A Testing Reg that should they use medicinal marijuana, they would lose their positions.


If an employee at your company was given a prescription to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, would you let him or her go?  Do you have a policy in place to deal with medicinal marijana use?

Kristina Taylor
In 1989, Kristina began her career as a customer service representative at the newly formed American Tenant Screen, Inc. Ten years later, she pioneered tenant background screening on the Internet. As a long-standing member of the National Multifamily Resident Information Council (formerly the National Association of Screening Agencies) Kristina gains insight into the trends of the tenant screening industry to better understand the current and future needs of their clients.

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