Employers need to be aware of their rights and obligations under the law

The Connecticut General Assembly's Legislative Regulations Review Committee has given final approval to comprehensive regulations implementing Connecticut's medical marijuana law, enacted by the 2012 General Assembly.

The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) will now move forward with its statutory mandate to implement a program for producing and dispensing marijuana to the qualifying patients who register for the program.

"To that end, we are announcing several significant developments that will begin in early September," DCP Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said.

The DCP will begin the process of selecting three to 10 producers and three to five dispensary facilities. Producers that are licensed by the department will be the only organizations in the state authorized to grow marijuana, and agency-approved dispensary facilities will be the only organizations authorized to sell marijuana to qualified patients and their caregivers.

To select the first producers and dispensary facilities, the DCP will initiate a competitive application process. In early September, the agency will post two Requests for Applications (RFAs) on its medical marijuana website. One RFA will be specifically for applicants who seek approval as a producer; the other will be for those who wish to apply for a dispensary facility license. Both RFAs will include detailed instructions explaining what is required of applicants and the criteria the agency will use to evaluate and score the RFA responses.

"It is our hope to be able to make our selections for both producer and dispensary facility licenses by around the first of the year," Rubenstein said.

Once the regulations are effective, persons who want additional medical conditions added to the list of 11 that qualify a patient for treatment with medical marijuana may begin to petition the program's Board of Physicians, Rubenstein said. The board, which is comprised of up to eight physicians, has met several times over the past year to advise the agency on various aspects of the program and will continue to meet at least twice annually to consider petitions. The regulations provide the process for filing such petitions.

"We will post on our website numerous considerations that petitioners must address in order for a petition to be presented to the Board of Physicians," Rubenstein said.

To qualify for medicinal use of marijuana, a patient must be diagnosed with one of eleven debilitating medical conditions. Most of the approximately 700 patients who have been certified by physicians to date have diagnoses of spinal cord injury with intractable spasticity, cancer, posttraumatic stress, and multiple sclerosis, with the remaining diagnoses spanning the other conditions: glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, and Crohn's disease.

Implications for Employers

Employers should be prepared for the possibility of an applicant or employee presenting a DCP registration certificate for medical use of marijuana. Under the law, an employer may not decline to hire someone, decide to fire, or otherwise penalize or threaten that person, solely because the person is qualified to use medical marijuana. However, an employer may reject an applicant or discharge an employee where federal safety standards prohibit use of marijuana in certain jobs, such as drivers of certain motor vehicles requiring a Commercial Driver License (CDL). Additionally, employers may still prohibit the use of marijuana during work hours or discipline an employee for being impaired while at work.