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Job Protection for Medical Marijuana Users May be Coming Soon. Does Your Company Need an Exemption?

Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2018 6:28 am

Pursuant to Act 116 of the Session Laws of Hawaii 2018, a working group has been formed to discuss potential legislation that would provide job protection for employees who possess a medical marijuana (“MMJ”) card under Chapter 329 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.   Members of the working group include various stakeholders, government agencies, and legislators.  HEC’s Director of Legal and Government Affairs, Ryan Sanada, has been appointed as a member of the working group. 

Legislation Protecting MMJ Cardholders on the Horizon

After attending the group’s first two meetings, Ryan reported that several members of the working group (including key legislators) are heavily in favor of legislation that would prohibit employers from disciplining an employee for failing a drug test for marijuana in situations where the employee has a medical marijuana card.  

The concern with such a proposal, however, is that certain companies will be subject to adverse consequences if they fail to maintain a drug-free workforce (including medical marijuana).  For example, the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires some Federal contractors and all Federal grantees to agree that they will maintain a drug-free workplace as a condition of receiving a contract or grant from a Federal agency.  In other words, failure to maintain a drug-free workplace could result in the loss of a contract or funding.

Need an Exemption?

In light of the potential for such legislation to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session, HEC is encouraging employers who need to maintain a drug-free workplace to request an exemption from this legislative proposal.  Such exemptions may be either based on industry (e.g. Federal contractors) or job position (e.g. jobs that operate heavy machinery).     

If your company would like to request an exemption, please email Ryan at with the following information:

  • Subject of Email: MMJ Exemption
  • Body of Email: (1) Type of exemption needed and (2) explanation for why the exemption is needed. 

The next working group meeting is scheduled for October 2, 2018.  If possible, please send your email to Ryan by September 25, 2018.  After receiving emails from HEC members on this issue, Ryan will compile a list and submit it to the working group.  While it is uncertain what types of exemptions the working group will adopt, it is certainly worth the effort to request the exemption if you think it is necessary for your company.

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