KTTU "In Focus," Sunday, 7/31/11, 10:30 AM

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

Host Bob Lee interviews Sherry Downer, an attorney with Fennimore Craig, Tucson. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, approved by voters in November, 2010, says that anyone who follows the requirements can't be penalized for the medical use of marijuana. The Act prohibits certain discriminatory practices.  

A new State law signed by the Governor on July 20, 2011, provides additional guidelines and assurance/protection for employers in amendments to drug-testing statutes.  

Downer says the new law, HB 2541, defines “impairment,” which is missing in the AMMA.  She says the law could shield some employers from lawsuits if they wish to fire workers who are under the influence of medical marijuana or prescription drugs.  She says another provision of the law allows employers with a qualifying drug-testing policy to reassign or lay off workers who take such medications if they have a job with possible safety risks.  She says the new law does not remove the continuing general duty of an employer to reasonably accommodate and not discriminate against medical marijuana users.  

Downer says employers should take maximum advantage of the “safe harbor” provisions of Arizona’s drug-testing laws by adopting written drug testing policies that state clearly when, how and why employees are subject to drug-testing as well as the company’s approach to the use of medical marijuana. She says the only exception would be when an employer would lose money or a licensing related benefit under Federal law, such as the Federal Drug Free Work Place Act.  She says this would apply to companies having Federal Government contracts or Federal Grants.