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Saturday, Dec 4, 2021
Mugglehead Magazine
Cannabis & psychedelics industry news based in Vancouver, B.C.
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International

Puerto Rico protects medical cannabis patients from workplace discrimination

But the protections don’t apply if the use of medical pot interferes with an employee’s performance or exposes employers to certain risks

Outside image of Puerto Rico's Capitol building on a clear day
An amendment protects Puerto Rico's registered medical cannabis patients from workplace discrimination. Photo by Brad Clinesmith via Wikimedia Commons

Employers in Puerto Rico can’t discriminate against qualified medical cannabis patients now that they’re considered a protected class under the U.S. territory’s employment protection laws.

On Thursday, Gov. Pedro R. Pierluisi signed an amendment to Puerto Rico’s cannabis law to include and protect patients under all employment laws.

Taking effect immediately, more than 113,000 registered and authorized medical cannabis patients in Puerto Rico are protected from workplace discrimination during the recruitment, hiring, designation, or termination process and when disciplinary actions are imposed.

According to American law firm Jackson Lewis P.C., a medical cannabis patient wouldn’t be protected if an employer can prove with evidence that the patient poses a “real threat of harm or danger to others or property.”

Protections wouldn’t apply if the use of medical cannabis interferes with an employee’s performance and duties or if the patient used cannabis during work hours or in the workplace without the employer’s written authorization.

The law firm also points out an exemption if “Permitting the use of medical cannabis would expose the employer to the risk of losing any licence, permit, or certification related to any federal law, regulation, program or fund.”

Puerto Rico’s amendment reflects today’s changing cultural landscape, says Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director.

He notes the majority of U.S. medical cannabis programs provide explicit protections for workers and some states — like Nevada, New Jersey and New York — protect adults who consume weed in their off-hours.

Read more: 3 US state weed laws kick in as advocates predict more bills to follow

Read more: Amazon backs U.S. weed laws, sheds employee testing

“Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace, such as pre-employment drug screening, is not now, nor has it ever been an evidence-based policy. Rather, this discriminatory practice is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs,’” he says in an email.

“But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.”

Medical cannabis was authorized in Puerto Rico in 2015 by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla in an executive order. Two years later, Act 42-2017 replaced the executive order and a legal framework was set up.

 

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