Medical Cannabis: What it Means for Minnesota Employers

July 1, 2015  |  Joan M. Quade

maryjaneAn brief overview of the new law by attorney Joan M. Quade and law clerk Tyler W. Eubank

The New Law for Minnesota Residents

In the Spring of 2014, Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill into law authorizing the use of medical cannabis. The law became effective on July 1, 2015. Regarded as one of the most restrictive medical cannabis laws in the nation, the law only allows for the use of cannabis to treat a number of chronic diseases such as HIV, AIDS, glaucoma, Tourette’s syndrome, seizures, and Crohn’s disease. The law also allows the use of cannabis in the treatment for cancer where the patient suffers from chronic pain, nausea, or severe wasting.
Once a doctor has determined that a patient has a qualifying disease, the patient must apply to be placed on the state-wide registry. A medical cannabis dispensary may only give cannabis products to people who are on the registry.

Minnesota Restrictions for Medical Cannabis

The law also provides that medical cannabis may only be administered and consumed in a number of ways. The patient may take cannabis in oil, vapor, or pill form. The patient may not smoke marijuana.
The law does not save a person from liability from negligence or professional malpractice for being under the influence of marijuana, and a patient may not drive while under the influence of cannabis.
Additionally, the law expressly forbids the use or possession of medical cannabis in certain locations such as day-cares, home day-cares, school buses, K-12 schools, preschools, and correctional facilities.
The Employer
An employer may not discriminate against a person in hiring, firing, or a condition of employment based on the fact that the person is enrolled in the registry program. An employer may not discriminate against a patient whom has tested positive for cannabis use. If an employee is required to take a drug test, the employee may provide proof of enrollment in the registry as a valid excuse. However, the law does not prevent an employer from taking action against an employee who possessed cannabis or was under the influence of cannabis at work during work hours.
An employer who would lose a license or money or would violate a federal law by keeping a medical cannabis patient employed is not required to continue employment of the patient.
This change in the law likely leaves you scratching your head.

• Do I fit in the exception for an employer receiving a federal benefit?
• Can I ask for proof of enrollment on the registry?
• Can I take action against a patient who drives under the influence of cannabis?
• What does it take to be under the influence of cannabis and how can I prove that an employee was under the influence of cannabis at work?
• What if my employee can be called into work without notice; can I forbid an employee from taking medical cannabis while they are on call?
• Can I forbid an employee from consuming medical cannabis over a period of several days?

Minneapolis Employment Law Attorneys

Personnel and employment matters in the workplace have become very complex and oftentimes require direct and delicate handling. If you have questions concerning medical cannabis laws in Minnesota, the attorneys at BGS are here to answer your questions. If you’d like more informationWhile the program is in its infancy and heavily restricted now, it is likely to expand in the future.

It is important to have a policy regarding medical cannabis now and consult with an attorney for any questions or issues that arise.

This article provides only an introduction to medical cannabis law. If your employee handbook contains a provision that may be affected by the new medical cannabis law or if you would like to develop a policy, our Employment Law Practice Group would be happy to draft the handbook provision and help put a policy in place for medical cannabis.
Joan M. Quade practices in the Employment Law Practice Group of Barna, Guzy & Steffen. Joan can be reached for questions regarding this article at (763) 783-5183 or