Does Utah Offer Workplace Protections for Medical Cannabis Users?

Despite medical cannabis being legal in Utah for several years now, there is still a lot that people don’t know about our program and its implementation. For example, a question we frequently hear at our Salt Lake City and Brigham City location is whether Utah offers workplace protections for medical cannabis users.

First and foremost, Beehive Farmacy operates two medical cannabis pharmacy locations. We are not experts in the law. What you are about to read is for informational purposes only. If you ever have questions about how the law applies in your situation, ask an attorney.

Protections Prior to 2022

Prior to the 2022 legislative session, there was no formal language in Utah’s medical cannabis law that offered specific workplace protections to patients with valid medical cannabis cards. Lawmakers changed that following the case of a local firefighter who was threatened with discipline after it was discovered that he possessed a card.

Lawmakers amended the regulations to offer a limited amount of protection to public sector workers. The new law dictated that state and local agencies had to treat medical cannabis like any other prescription medication. They could not indiscriminately discipline employees based solely on medical cannabis consumption.

Updates for the 2024 Session

Although the 2022 changes introduced some workplace protections for public sector workers, the language was not specific enough. So lawmakers revisited the idea in 2024. They have modified the rule yet again. Here is a summary of the new language taken from the state’s legislative summary document:

“State or local governments can only discipline employees for medical cannabis use if they would discipline another employee the same way for using a different controlled substance and if they have a written policy about controlled substances.”

If we understand the language correctly, public-sector employers can include medical cannabis in their drug policies. However, they may not treat medical cannabis any differently than another controlled substance being used under the supervision of a doctor.

Furthermore, any discipline against a medical cannabis user would have to apply to users of other prescription drugs as well. Medical cannabis users cannot be singled out for separate and distinct disciplines.

There Are Exceptions

Lawmakers fine-tuning the rule is good news for Utah medical cannabis patients working in public sector positions. But it should be noted that there are exceptions. Some public sector jobs are still subject to discipline for medical cannabis violations. At the top of the list is law enforcement.

Federal law prevents a cannabis user from purchasing, owning, or possessing firearms. By default, this means police officers are prohibited from using illicit substances of any kind. That means no medical cannabis. A police officer with an active medical cannabis card can be disciplined by their employer.

No Protections for the Private Sector

It is also important to note that Utah’s regulations do not include any protections for private-sector workers. Private employers are still allowed to devise and implement workplace drug policies as they see fit. Perhaps that will change at some point in the future. For now, however, just be aware that your employer’s policies can be enforced as long as they align with the law.

Here at Beehive Farmacy, we want you to be as informed as possible about state regulations. Meanwhile, we are doing everything we can to make sure you have access to the highest-quality medical cannabis products in the state. We invite you to visit either our Salt Lake City or Brigham City location for your next medical cannabis purchase. We are looking forward to serving you.