Tuesday, 17 Apr, 2007 Offbeat

USA Workers Allowed to Use Marijuana?


At present day it is estimated that about 300,000 people in the USA smoke marijuana for medical purposes, according to ASA data on registered users. The list of states that allow marijuana use continues to grow. In April, New Mexico joined the list of 11 states allowing marijuana treatment.

The issue is rarely aroused in court, however more and more employers feel concerned about a worker smoking marijuana during his working hours. Many companies believe that marijuana use influences employee performance and increases the possibility of accidents at workplace. So they conduct special tests to reveal the drug users. If a worker tests positive for the drug, he gets fired, even in case marijuana smoking is sanctioned by the state for medical treatment.

Naturally, employers wonder whether the state laws sanctioning medical marijuana would protect their interests if a worker who used marijuana to relieve pain injured his co-workers or made a job mistake. It is difficult for example to employ a truck driver smoking marijuana.

Meanwhile, companies in New York and other states that so far prohibit medical marijuana debate over the issue. Employers are looking for clear answers concerning the matter, as they face a lot of uncertainty. The majority of the companies' managers have doubts about clearness of mind of marijuana-smokers. Some employers say they would create flexible working hours schedule for the employed marijuana users. Yet, at present day the states with medical marijuana laws do not ask employers to make any accommodations for using the drug in the workplace. Many employers are not sure whether they can fire or deny people smoking medical marijuana, or whether it is possible to accommodate them by giving permission to use marijuana only at home or in a special smoking room at work.

In some states allowing medical marijuana, patients may take the drug at special dispensaries. Other states provide authorized caregivers who take care of growing a limited number of marijuana. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, there have been cases of patients getting their marijuana on the black market.

Federal law still prohibits marijuana use. Medical marijuana users are usually not prosecuted. However, people authorized by states for growing or using medical marijuana still face the risk of being arrested by federal officials. The law conflict leads to real confusion of people involved in the matter.

Marijuana is used by patients who suffer from AIDS or HIV, cancer, hepatitis C, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, and multiple sclerosis. Some doctors support medical marijuana to get relief from such symptoms as pain and depression, nausea from their chemotherapy, and loss of appetite. Yet, not all medical organizations approve marijuana as a pain reliever. Some of them warn that the substance is of a very high risk for abuse and its use lacks the necessary safety. Some organizations support the idea the drug has to be studied thoroughly for revealing its influence on patients.

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