Medical Marijuana use by Employees in Assisted Living Communities

July 26, 2021

Author: John Campbell


Recently, I’ve seen various articles and editorials where folks seem to be recommending employers stop screening for marijuana now that medical marijuana use by adults is legal in Illinois and a number of other states. In my personal view, those ideas don’t match up to the unforeseen risks your assisted living community may face by allowing medical marijuana use without proper monitoring and enforcement that you may have in place with other controlled substances.

As always, the main concern is safety. If you allow your employees to start using medical marijuana without a clear policy, they become a health and safety risk to themselves and those around them. Without a policy in place, it may be likely that lawyers will put your community in the cross-hairs should your employee causes a serious accident or injury while under the influence, especially when caring for and/or transporting residents.

First and foremost, you should have a thorough understanding of the cannabis laws in your state. While you may certainly rely on the federal prohibition of cannabis to support the ban of it in your workplace, it may not be a good idea to ignore state-specific laws. You should consult your corporate counsel or legal representative to fully understand the various state regulations.  

To minimize risk concerning employee medical marijuana use, employers might consider implementing some or all of the following: 

  1. Disseminate a policy prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana and other controlled substances while at work. Clearly inform employees that termination is the consequence for use or possession of marijuana as it remains illegal under federal law.
  2. Adopt a pre-duty prescription medication and impairment substance safety policy to address medicinal marijuana as well as other prescription drug use.
  3. Update job descriptions and clearly identify jobs with safety-sensitive classifications; many are obvious such as those driving vehicles, managing resident medication, transporting machinery or administering community activities.
  4. Require employees working in such safety-sensitive jobs to disclose any prescription which has an impairing effect; this can be marijuana or narcotic prescriptions.

Be mindful that the ADA requires reasonable accommodation of a covered disability. Employees don’t need to disclose a medical condition, however, once an employee advises of a marijuana prescription, you may want to reserve the right for a fit for duty examination to address the impact of the prescription.

To learn more about implementing medical marijuana policies in your facility, please reach out to your Marsh McLennan Agency representative.