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Can I be Denied a Job if I Have a Medical Marijuana Card in PA?

Navigating the legal landscape of medical marijuana use and employment in Pennsylvania can be challenging. With evolving laws at the state and federal levels, medical marijuana patients may question their rights within the workplace, especially when it comes to drug testing and reasonable accommodation. This blog explores the protection offered to cardholders, the implications of a positive drug test, and the influence of medical marijuana laws on employment practices.

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Understanding Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Laws and Employment

The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, known as Act 16, came into effect on April 17, 2016, following its signing by Governor Tom Wolf. This act legalizes the use of medical marijuana for individuals with a serious medical condition. One of the key features of this act is that it protects registered medical marijuana users from being unfairly discriminated against in the workplace. It specifically prohibits employers from making employment decisions based solely on an individual's status as a medical marijuana patient​​​​.

This protection extends to various aspects of employment, such as hiring, firing, and determining the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment​​​​. However, it's crucial to note that the act also outlines that patients are not allowed to engage in high-risk activities while under the influence, which enables employers to maintain a safe work environment​​.

For truck drivers, public utility workers, and others in safety-sensitive positions, there's a balance to be struck. While state law provides certain protections, federal law, such as the regulations by the U.S. Department of Transportation, still categorizes marijuana as an illegal substance, affecting those under federal employment guidelines. This dichotomy underscores the ongoing challenge of aligning state and federal viewpoints on medical cannabis use​​.

In Pennsylvania, the influence of medical marijuana laws continues to shape workplace safety issues, especially in roles involving high-voltage electricity or operation of a motor vehicle. Employers must reconcile creating a drug-free workplace with the rights of medical marijuana cardholders, ensuring that those with a serious medical condition are not subject to adverse action based solely on their medical use of marijuana​​​​.

Key Takeaway: The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act offers legal protections to employees who are registered medical marijuana users, preventing discrimination based on their patient status, while still allowing employers to enforce safety standards.

Tweet-worthy quote: "Pennsylvania's Act 16 carves out a space where medical marijuana patients can work without fear of discrimination, balancing patient rights with workplace safety. #MedicalMarijuana #EmploymentLaw #PatientRights #WorkplaceSafety" Tweet This

For those looking to understand their rights or explore if they qualify for a medical marijuana card based on their health conditions, resources like ARCannabisClinic provide a pre-qualification survey that could be a helpful first step. This survey helps potential patients determine if their conditions align with the state's qualifying criteria for a medical marijuana card, providing a foundation for further exploration into medical marijuana therapy.

Legal Protections for Medical Marijuana Users in the Workplace

In Pennsylvania, the Medical Marijuana Act (Act 16) is the foundational document that outlines the rights and protections for medical marijuana users in the workplace. Under Act 16, registered patients are shielded from unfair discrimination based on their status as medical marijuana users. This means that employers are prohibited from dismissing, threatening, refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating against an individual solely because they are registered to use medical marijuana​​​​.

However, it's important to clarify that these protections have boundaries. While the Act prevents discrimination, it doesn't compel employers to make accommodations for the use of medical marijuana on work premises. Moreover, it doesn't protect employees from consequences if they are under the influence during work hours, especially if their conduct falls below the required standards of the workplace​​​​.

Employers still have the right to enforce a drug-free workplace and can discipline employees if their medical marijuana use infringes on their work responsibilities or violates company policy. Particularly, the Act does not cover the rights of patients to use the drug when they are not at work or protect them from failing a drug test mandated by the employer​​​​.

For those employed in positions that involve high-risk activities, such as working with high-voltage electricity or operating heavy machinery, the law explicitly prohibits the use of medical marijuana while engaging in these activities to ensure a safe work environment​​.

Key Takeaway: While the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act provides important protections for medical marijuana patients in the workplace, it does not force employers to accommodate on-site use or alter their drug-free workplace policies.

Tweet-worthy quote: "Act 16 in PA safeguards medical marijuana patients from workplace discrimination, ensuring that medicine and employment rights are balanced. #MedicalMarijuana #Act16 #PatientRights #WorkplaceEquality" Tweet This

For individuals seeking to understand how these protections may apply to their specific circumstances, or for those who are looking to see if they qualify for a medical marijuana card, ARCannabisClinic can provide guidance on medical marijuana qualifying conditions. This resource helps individuals understand the legal and practical aspects of medical marijuana use in relation to their employment.

Drug Testing Policies and Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, drug testing policies for medical marijuana users are influenced by both state and federal regulations, creating a complex legal environment for employers and employees alike. While there is no state law specifically addressing drug testing in private employment, Pennsylvania law requires that anyone who drives within the state consents to chemical tests for controlled substances, including marijuana. This testing is critical for determining impairment, particularly for those in safety-sensitive roles such as drivers​​.

For employers, the landscape is particularly nuanced. In Philadelphia, for example, there is a prohibition on pre-employment marijuana testing for many jobs, reflecting a growing trend to accommodate medical marijuana users. Employers are encouraged to review their drug testing policies, especially since a zero-tolerance approach could lead to discrimination claims by certified medical marijuana users​​​​. Pennsylvania's caselaw is still developing in this area, suggesting that employers should tread carefully and stay informed about new legal interpretations and regulations​​.

A notable case highlights the tension between workplace policies and medical marijuana use. An individual claimed they were terminated from their job at an Amazon warehouse for failing a drug test, despite being a licensed medical marijuana user. This case underscores the potential for conflict between employer drug-free policies and the rights of medical marijuana users under state law​​.

Key Takeaway: Employers in Pennsylvania must balance their drug testing policies with the rights of employees who are certified medical marijuana users to avoid discrimination, while also maintaining a safe and compliant workplace.

Tweet-worthy quote: "In PA, the path to fair drug testing in the workplace considers both safety and the rights of medical marijuana patients. #DrugTesting #MedicalMarijuana #PAEmploymentLaw #PatientsRights" Tweet This

For individuals navigating this landscape or seeking more information on medical marijuana use and employment, ARCannabisClinic offers resources such as a state-by-state guide on how to apply for a medical marijuana card, providing clarity and support for medical marijuana patients and their employment rights.

Federal Laws vs. State Laws: Implications for Medical Marijuana Users

The landscape of medical marijuana laws across the United States presents a complex interplay between state and federal regulations. While a substantial number of states have relaxed their laws concerning medical marijuana, federal law, as per the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), still classifies marijuana as illegal. This federal law does not acknowledge the medical use of marijuana, treating it no differently from recreational use​​​​.

At the federal level, marijuana's status as a Schedule I substance means its possession, cultivation, distribution, and use are prohibited, creating a stark contrast with state laws where medical marijuana is legal. Despite the federal stance, there has been no court ruling that federal laws regarding marijuana preemption over state medical marijuana laws. In fact, the Department of Justice has previously dismissed a lawsuit that claimed a state's medical marijuana law was overridden by federal law​​.

This discrepancy can put medical marijuana users in a precarious position. While they may be following the law within their state's boundaries, they remain at risk of federal enforcement actions. For instance, although marijuana is legal for recreational use in 24 states and for medical use in 38 states as of November 2023, these users are still subject to federal law which does not permit marijuana use​​.

Key Takeaway: There exists a significant policy gap between federal law, which bans marijuana, and state laws, many of which legalize it for medical purposes. This gap puts users and businesses in a potentially vulnerable legal position, despite state protections.

Tweet-worthy quote: "Medical marijuana users navigate a legal gray area between permissive state laws and strict federal bans. #MedicalMarijuana #StateVsFederal #LegalGap" Tweet This

For those seeking to understand their rights under state law or who are looking for medical marijuana treatment options, organizations like ARCannabisClinic provide a comprehensive guide on how marijuana helps with various conditions, aligning patient care with the current legal framework.

Navigating Workplace Safety and Medical Marijuana Use

In the workplace, the use of medical marijuana intersects with various concerns regarding safety, health, and legal compliance. While medical marijuana is legal in numerous states, employers have the authority to enforce drug policies that may prohibit the use of marijuana at the workplace. An employee who uses marijuana on the job or appears at work under its influence can face penalties, even if they are legally registered and use marijuana for medical purposes​​.

Safety-sensitive industries, in particular, are likely to maintain strict zero-tolerance policies due to the inherent risks associated with the roles. Employers face the challenge of upholding safety standards while adapting to state marijuana laws that may conflict with their drug-testing requirements​​. In instances where medical marijuana is permitted, it is advised for employers to consult with occupational health professionals to ensure that the accommodation of medical marijuana does not compromise workplace safety​​.

Another layer of complexity is added by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its interplay with state laws on medical marijuana. While the ADA requires reasonable accommodation for workers with disabilities, the act does not protect medical marijuana use under federal law. This creates a potential conflict between ensuring workplace safety and accommodating medical marijuana under state laws. As the legal landscape evolves, especially with the possibility of marijuana legalization at the federal level, existing ADA case law precedents may shift, impacting how workplace safety and medical marijuana use are addressed​​.

Key Takeaway: Employers must carefully balance maintaining workplace safety with respecting the legal rights of employees who use medical marijuana, especially in light of the evolving legal landscape and the varied state laws.

Tweet-worthy quote: "Workplace safety and medical marijuana use require a balanced approach to ensure legal compliance and health benefits. #WorkplaceSafety #MedicalMarijuana #HealthAndSafety" Tweet This

In consideration of these factors, companies may find it beneficial to develop clear policies regarding medical marijuana use that are informed by current research and legal advice. For individuals seeking assistance in navigating these issues, ARCannabisClinic offers marijuana therapy consultations, which can provide valuable guidance on the use of medical marijuana in a way that considers both personal health and workplace obligations.

Legal Recourse for Medical Marijuana Users Denied Employment

Medical marijuana users who are denied employment due to their medical cannabis use have a growing body of legal recourse at their disposal, particularly as states continue to evolve their laws regarding cannabis use and employment rights. The state of Montana, for instance, has enacted legislation that considers cannabis a "lawful product," prohibiting employers from rejecting applicants or taking adverse actions against employees based solely on marijuana use or positive tests, except in cases where impairment in the workplace is demonstrable​​.

Further adding to the protective measures, 19 states have banned employers from discriminating against employees based on medical marijuana use. These states include Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia​​. Moreover, courts in some jurisdictions are increasingly siding with employees in cases concerning the use of medical cannabis and employment, reflecting a shift from previous years where employee firings for cannabis use were commonly upheld even under state medical marijuana programs​​.

It's also noteworthy that in 17 out of the 36 states with medical marijuana programs, explicit employment protections are included in the laws or courts have ruled in favor of employees. This shows a trend towards safeguarding the employment rights of medical marijuana users, signaling a shift in the legal landscape that favors anti-discrimination provisions for such individuals​​.

Key Takeaway: There is a significant movement toward providing legal protections for medical marijuana users in the employment context, with many states enacting laws that prevent discrimination based on medical cannabis use and courts increasingly ruling in favor of employee rights.

Tweet-worthy quote: "Legal winds are shifting, offering stronger employment protections for medical marijuana users. #MedicalCannabisRights #EmploymentLaw #AntiDiscrimination" Tweet This

Individuals seeking further information on the legal aspects of medical marijuana use in relation to employment can consult resources such as the Marijuana Policy Project which provides detailed information on medical cannabis laws and anti-discrimination provisions.


Can I be denied a job if I have a medical marijuana card in PA? Yes, in Pennsylvania, you may be denied employment for having a medical marijuana card if the job involves safety-sensitive work or is regulated by federal law, such as positions requiring driving or operating heavy machinery. The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act provides some protections but does not supersede federal law or private employer policies in a drug-free workplace.

Does the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act protect workers who use medical cannabis? Yes, the Act protects registered medical marijuana patients from discrimination solely on their user status but does not allow use in the workplace or protect against adverse actions based on impairment during work hours.

Are medical marijuana cardholders in PA required to disclose their status to employers? No, medical marijuana cardholders are not required to disclose their patient status to employers; however, disclosure may be necessary to request a reasonable accommodation.

What should I do if I test positive on a pre-employment drug test but have a medical marijuana card in PA? If you test positive, you should provide your medical marijuana card and a doctor’s recommendation to the employer. If adverse action is taken, seek legal advice, as protections may vary based on job type and employer policies.

Can using medical marijuana outside of work hours affect my employment in PA? Yes, if a drug test detects marijuana use, even from off-duty hours, it can impact your employment due to federal drug testing rules, especially in safety-sensitive positions or if you're a medical assistant, truck driver, or any role under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Is there legal protection for medical marijuana users against discrimination in PA? Yes, state law offers some protections against discrimination for legal marijuana users, but federal law still classifies marijuana use as illegal, which can create conflicts, particularly in a federal court or with federal employers.

Can an employer in PA accommodate the use of medical marijuana at the workplace? Employers are not required to accommodate on-site use of medical marijuana and may enforce a drug-free policy as a standard of care for maintaining a safe work environment.

If denied employment due to medical marijuana use, do I have a private right of action in PA? In certain circumstances, you might have a private right of action under state law, but this is a complex area of law, and seeking the advice of an attorney like Pittsburgh's John McCreary Jr. or other legal experts is recommended.

Are employees in PA entitled to compensation if unfairly treated due to medical marijuana use? Employees may seek compensation if they can prove they were unfairly treated or discriminated against due to legal medical cannabis use, particularly if it relates to a serious medical condition.

How do federal drug testing rules impact medical marijuana users in PA? Federal drug testing rules, which do not recognize legal marijuana use, can override state protections for medical marijuana cardholders, leading to potential job denial or dismissal.

What are the implications of a positive drug test for medical marijuana cardholders in Pennsylvania? A positive drug test can lead to job denial or disciplinary action, especially if it violates the employer's drug policy or if the employee's role involves public health or transportation.

Do employer groups in Pennsylvania have guidelines for dealing with medical marijuana patients? Many employer groups advise companies to update their drug policies to address medical marijuana use, with a focus on safety risks and reasonable suspicion of impairment on the job.

What should Pennsylvania employers consider regarding employee tests for marijuana? Employers should consider state laws, the influence of medical marijuana on public health, and their own drug-free workplace policies when implementing employee tests for marijuana.

Can a public utility worker in Pennsylvania be fired for off-duty medical cannabis use? While off-duty use may be legally protected, if a public utility worker tests positive for THC at work, they may face disciplinary action due to the safety-sensitive nature of their position.

What accommodations might be considered for a medical marijuana user in a Pennsylvania workplace? While on-site use is generally not accommodated, some Pennsylvania employers may allow for modified work hours or duties for medical marijuana users, as long as it doesn't pose a safety hazard.

What legal advice is there for Pennsylvania employees using medical marijuana prescriptions? Legal advice for employees would typically emphasize understanding the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, federal law, and seeking clarity on the employer’s policies on drug testing and accommodation.

How does the presence of medical marijuana laws influence Pennsylvania's workforce? Medical marijuana laws have made some employers skittish but also prompted a review of policies, aiming to balance employee rights with maintaining a drug-free and safe workplace.

What recourse do medical marijuana users have in Pennsylvania if denied employment? Users may seek legal recourse through the Pennsylvania Supreme Court or pursue employee’s compensation claims if there is evidence of discrimination based on lawful medical use.

Can school bus drivers in Pennsylvania use medical marijuana? School bus drivers are subject to federal Department of Transportation rules, which do not permit any marijuana use due to the safety-sensitive nature of the job.

What should medical marijuana users in Pennsylvania know about workplace safety issues? Users should be aware that while their medical use is protected to some extent, workplace safety issues take precedence, especially in roles that could pose a safety hazard if performed under the influence.

Does Pennsylvania law protect medical marijuana patients from being fired for using cannabis? Yes, Pennsylvania law prohibits employers from firing an individual solely for being a medical marijuana patient, but this does not extend to using marijuana at work or being impaired during work hours.

Are there legal protections in place for Pennsylvania residents who use medical marijuana and drive for work? No, drivers regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation are not protected and can be disqualified from driving if they use medical marijuana, even with a legal medical card.

Can a medical assistant in Pennsylvania who uses medical marijuana face job-related consequences? Yes, if the medical assistant's use of medical marijuana affects their work performance or violates the employer's drug policy, they could face consequences, including termination.

How can medical marijuana cardholders in Pennsylvania ensure they comply with both state and federal laws? Cardholders should consult with legal experts to understand the interplay between state and federal laws and ensure compliance, particularly since federal law does not recognize medical marijuana use.

What should Pennsylvania employers do to maintain a drug-free workplace while respecting medical marijuana laws? Employers should consult legal advice to craft policies that respect state laws for medical marijuana users while upholding a drug-free workplace, especially in safety-sensitive positions.

If a Pennsylvania employer denies employment based on a positive marijuana test, what can the applicant do? The applicant can seek legal counsel to determine if the denial was lawful, considering both the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act and the employer's right to maintain a drug-free workplace.

What are the implications for medical marijuana users in Pennsylvania regarding random drug testing at work? Medical marijuana users could be at risk of disciplinary action if they test positive during random drug tests, depending on the employer's drug policy and the nature of the job.

How does the influence of medical marijuana factor into Pennsylvania employers' decisions about employee drug tests? Employers must balance the influence of medical marijuana as a legal treatment option with their obligation to ensure safety and adhere to drug testing policies.

Can a public utility employee in Pennsylvania be accommodated for their medical marijuana use? It depends on the employer's policies and the role's safety requirements; typically, safety-sensitive positions would not allow for such accommodation.

Does Pennsylvania's law provide a safe harbor for medical marijuana users against federal employment discrimination? No, Pennsylvania's law does not provide a safe harbor against federal employment discrimination, as federal law classifies marijuana as an illegal substance.

What can a Pennsylvania resident do if they feel their use of medical marijuana has led to undue hardship in their employment? A resident can consult with an attorney to explore legal options, which may include filing a discrimination claim if their use of medical marijuana has been in accordance with state law.

Do employee’s compensation laws in Pennsylvania consider medical marijuana use? Employee’s compensation laws do not specifically address medical marijuana use, and such cases would likely be evaluated on the individual circumstances and existing state protections.

Can Pennsylvania employers discriminate against legal marijuana users from states like New Jersey? While Pennsylvania employers must comply with Pennsylvania law regarding medical marijuana, they are also bound by federal laws, which could affect employees coming from other states like New Jersey.

What standard of care should Pennsylvania employers follow when it comes to employees with medical marijuana prescriptions? Employers should follow a standard of care that ensures workplace safety and complies with legal requirements while considering the medical needs of employees with marijuana prescriptions.

If a Pennsylvania medical marijuana patient is denied employment at a Weis Markets distribution center, what steps should they take? They should review the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act and their legal protections, possibly seeking legal advice to understand if the denial was in violation of their rights.

What legal advice would be given to skittish employers in Pennsylvania about hiring medical marijuana users? Legal advice would likely include reviewing the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, federal laws, and the need for clear, compliant policies regarding drug testing and workplace safety.

Are Pennsylvania lawmakers considering any changes to employment laws regarding medical marijuana users? Pennsylvania lawmakers may consider changes as the legal landscape evolves, but currently, the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act is the governing state law on the matter.

Can an employer’s ability in Pennsylvania to maintain a safe work environment override a medical marijuana patient’s rights? Yes, an employer’s ability to maintain a safe workplace can take precedence over a patient’s rights, particularly in roles where impairment could pose a significant safety risk.

Do federal drug testing rules override the reasonable accommodation of medical marijuana use in Pennsylvania workplaces? Yes, federal drug testing rules, such as those from the Department of Transportation, take precedence over state-level reasonable accommodation laws for medical marijuana use.

How can Pennsylvania employers balance the influence of medical marijuana with public health concerns in their workforce? Employers must create drug policies that acknowledge the influence of medical marijuana while addressing public health and safety concerns, possibly seeking input from legal and medical professionals.


The interplay between state law and federal law often creates a haze of uncertainty for medical marijuana users seeking employment or navigating workplace policies in Pennsylvania. While state laws provide a shield, federal laws can sometimes override these protections, affecting Pennsylvania employers and medical marijuana cardholders alike. For those seeking legal advice or navigating the complex world of medical marijuana and employment, ARCannabisClinic stands ready to assist. With a national network of marijuana doctors, ARCannabisClinic helps patients to get approved for a medical marijuana card in their state. Their MMJ Therapy Visit offers a unique, one-on-one consultation with a cannabis expert to craft a medical marijuana treatment plan tailored to individual needs, including dosage and strain recommendations. As a leader in comprehensive diagnosis evaluations for conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, and others, ARCannabisClinic is at the forefront of empowering patients through informed, compassionate care.


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