Hawaii's medical marijuana law doesn't automatically protect a patient whose results come up positive during random drug testing by their employer. "If they have a zero-tolerance policy for drug use they can still fire you," Rep. Karl Rhoads said.
Rhoads chairs the House Judiciary Committee. He said under state law medical marijuana users have no workplace protection, plus the federal government considers cannabis a Schedule 1 narcotic.
"There's going to continue to be tension between states that have at least partially legalized pakalolo and the federal government. And this is an area where it crops up very prominently," he said.
Labor attorney David Simons believes grounds for firing are clear if the medical marijuana patient works in a zero-drug-tolerance job where safety's involved. It's trickier if they don't and performance isn't affected.
"I would hesitate to fire that person. I think you're buying a lawsuit," he said. "If it's a performance problem, document a performance problem and don't speculate about the reason."
The legal issue is further complicated by the body's retention of THC. You may take your dosage on Saturday then get a random drug test Monday. "You're going to show something on Monday morning even if you're stone cold sober," Rhoads said.
With dispensaries will come an increase in Hawaii's medical marijuana patients. The Department of Health averages 1,100 applications a month. Some are renewals, some are new.
"We're evolving as a society and marijuana use is evolving. We'll see how the law evolves," Simons said.