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Medical Marihuana Act: Overview of the Law and Effect on Employers

January 19, 2009

In November 2008, Michigan voters approved Proposal I - The Medical Marihuana Act. The Act was effective December 4, 2008.

The Act allows patients with a debilitating medical condition (e.g., cancer, HIV or AIDS) to utilize medical marihuana after obtaining a registry identification card from the Michigan Department of Community Health. In order to obtain such card, patients must obtain a written certification from a physician verifying that they have one of the qualifying debilitating medical conditions.

The law provides that such patients "shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for the medical use of marihuana in accordance with this Act." A qualifying patient is limited to possessing 2.5 ounces of usable marihuana, and can cultivate 12 marihuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility. The Act also protects designated caregivers of such patients from prosecution and penalties.

The Department of Community Health is required to promulgate administrative rules regarding the Act by April 4, 2009. Individuals seeking the Act's protection may also register for the program as of this date.

The Act prohibits individuals from using marijuana in public places and does not require government medical assistance programs or private health insurers to reimburse individuals for costs associated with the medical use of marihuana.

The Act does not require employers to permit medical marihuana use in the workplace. The Act specifically provides that employers are not required to accommodate (1) the ingestion of marihuana in any workplace or (2) any employee working while under the influence of marihuana.

For additional information on the implications of the Medical Marihuana Act for employers, please contact Kelley Stoppels at 616/336-6471 or Brett Rendeiro at 248/567-7405. Kelley and Brett are attorneys in Varnum's Labor and Employment Practice Group.

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