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Medical Marijuana Patients Vulnerable to Discrimination

Posted on Apr 17, 2014

For years, millions of people throughout the country have clamored for marijuana legalization, or at least the right to consume the drug for medicinal purposes. But even though Illinois became the 20th state to approve medical marijuana, people who choose to exercise this new “freedom” will also leave themselves vulnerable to many forms of discrimination.

One of the most controversial issues surrounding medical marijuana revolves around employers. On one hand, the law says employers cannot discriminate against medical marijuana patients. Contrariwise, they’re still allowed to maintain a zero tolerance drug policy and don’t have to make an exception for medical marijuana.

As a result, there are plenty of cases where otherwise model employees have been fired for using medical marijuana. Anyone fired for that reason is inclined to consider it discrimination, and there is no shortage of lawyers who would agree with that sentiment. This will definitely be a hotly contested issue in court, but potential users need to ask themselves if medical marijuana is worth this headache.

Moreover, people with certain jobs such as law enforcement officials, bus drivers and anyone with a commercial driver’s license is not allowed to use medical marijuana. There’s a strong possibility that this will be fought in court as well.

Medical marijuana patients might also feel like they’re being discriminated against by landlords who can ban the substance in their buildings and colleges who can ban it from their campuses. It’s fair to ask how they can justify banning marijuana on their property but not cigarettes or other forms of smoking. Still, it’s bound to happen.

Even though most prescriptions are covered by standard insurance plans, medical marijuana patients will be disappointed to learn that insurance companies aren’t required to cover this newly approved treatment. So if you want medical marijuana, you’ll probably have to pay for it out of pocket.

Despite all the potential discrimination, proponents of outright legalization still might view the Medical Cannabis Act as a step in that direction. But it’s important to note that it’s just a four-year pilot program with an automatic sunset if it’s not renewed by the end of 2017.

While it took about six years to pass the bill, it will still have to be reapproved in four years; otherwise marijuana will be completely illegal again. People who plan on abusing the new law as a means to smoke recreationally might want to keep that in mind.

Although many people are excited about the Medical Cannabis Act, users need to realize that they’re putting themselves at risk for many forms of discrimination.