Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 117, Issue 3, pp 659-666

First online:

Employment and Public Policy Issues Surrounding Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

  • Jeffrey A. MelloAffiliated withSchool of Business, Siena College Email author 

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The status of marijuana as an illegal drug has greatly evolved in recent years. Many countries have decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use. Others have not decriminalized it but simply “tolerate” it for private personal use. Four countries have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana and one other tolerates the use of marijuana for medical purposes without having legislated a specific right for such possession and use. To date, 17 of the United States and the District of Columbia have also passed laws regarding medical marijuana. However, state medical marijuana laws are at odds with the federal Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits possession of marijuana. This fact, in tandem with employer requirements under the Drug-Free Workplace Act, has created a dilemma for employers who have employees with medical conditions for which medical marijuana has been recommended. Given that 18 additional states currently have medical marijuana legislation pending, medical marijuana in the workplace is an issue which is not going to go away. As a result, it is time to examine the interface between federal and state laws as well as the public policy issues surrounding the lack of rights which medical marijuana patients have in their workplaces.


Ethics Law Medical marijuana Public policy Workplace