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Alabama Legalizes Medical Cannabis

In May, 2021, Governor Kay Ivey signed legislation permitting the use of medical cannabis to treat a set of specific conditions.

Known as the Darren Wesley "Ato" Hall Compassion Act, this new law permitting the use of medical marijuana is applicable for the treatment of conditions such as Crohn's disease, depression, epilepsy, HIV/AIDs, panic disorder, Parkinson's disease, persistent nausea and post-traumatic stress disorder. While the law became effective immediately upon the Governor's signature, medical cannabis will not be available for at least one year.

There are a variety of forms in which the substance may be utilized under this law; however, the substance may not be smoked, vaped or consumed as a food product. Recreational use also remains prohibited under this law.

Per the law, employer are not required to:

  • Permit or accommodate the use of medical cannabis
  • Modify positions and/or working conditions for employees who engage in the use of the substance

Furthermore, employers are not prohibited from:

  • Refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining or engaging in an adverse employment action against an individual as a result of the use of medical cannabis, regardless of the individual's impairment or lack of impairment resulting from use of the substance
  • Establishing or enforcing a drug testing policy, which may include terms prohibiting the use of medical cannabis in the workplace
  • Implementing a drug-free workforce program established in connection with the state workers' compensation premium discount law
  • Adopting a policy requiring employees to notify the employer as to the possession of a medical cannabis card

Additionally, the law does not:

  • Impact any federal restrictions on employment, including those adopted by the U.S Department of Transportation or the workers' compensation premium discount available to employers who establish a drug-free workplace policy certified by the state's workers' compensation premium discount law
  • Allow or authorize any individual's right to commence or undertake any legal action against an employer for refusing to hire, discharging, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment as a result of an individual's medical cannabis use
  • Require a government medical assistance program, employer, property and casualty insurer or private health insurer to issue reimbursement for costs associated with the use of medical cannabis
  • Affect an employer's right to deny, or establish legal defenses to, the payment of workers' compensation benefits to an employee on the basis of a positive drug test or refusal to submit or to cooperate with a drug test, as provided in the state workers' compensation premium discount law
    • If the condition of the workers' compensation premium discount law are met, those discharged as a result of refusing to submit to a drug test or for using medical cannabis will be classified as having been discharged for misconduct

Employers should review the law and all internal policies regarding drug testing to determine if any revisions are necessary.

Posted: June 11, 2021


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