Intro to Medical Marijuana Patient Rights

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New laws often bring a heap of other legal questions. With medical marijuana legalization being recent in so many states, patients have a plethora of initial questions regarding what they can and cannot do. It’s important that medical marijuana patients understand their patient rights, as the implications of unknowingly breaking the law can be serious.

To tackle these frequent questions, we brought in the experts. We talked with Brad Blommer, Emily Burns, and Perry Salzhauer, from Green Light Law Group, to discuss the basics surrounding medical marijuana patient rights.


Are medical marijuana patient rights different in each state?

Yes, the rights of medical cannabis patients vary by state. For example, some states provide employment law protections for medical cannabis patients, while others do not. It’s important to note that federal employment law protections will generally not apply to medical cannabis patients who are still in violation of federal law (as truly absurd as that is).

What’s the best way to stay informed on recent medical marijuana laws and rights for patients?

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Two of the best sources for information include Marijuana Policy Project and Americans for Safe Access. The Marijuana Policy Project website has a state-by-state map of medical marijuana laws and it’s updated frequently compared to other websites. Americans for Safe Access provides reliable medical cannabis information for patients. They are the primary advocacy organization for the medical cannabis community.

What does a medical marijuana recommendation allow a patient to do?

A medical marijuana recommendation or “certification,” as some states call it, simply states that the patient suffers from a medical condition that qualifies for cannabis use under state law. The recommendation or certification allows the qualifying medical cannabis patient to obtain marijuana products from a state-licensed dispensary, pursuant to the physician’s recommendation.

How private are medical marijuana records for patients?

Similar to patient rights, this depends on specific state laws governing medical cannabis.

If I’m a patient and get drug tested for work, can I be fired?

Yes! This is one of the most common misconceptions about medical cannabis patient rights. Patients are not covered by federal employment law protections. It’s a state-by-state issue, which is very frustrating for medical cannabis patients who live in states that have not extended employment law protections for medical cannabis users.

Can a patient fly with cannabis (domestically and internationally)?

It’s illegal to transport cannabis across state lines, even if you are flying between two states where cannabis is legal, i.e. Colorado and California. It is a federal, rather than state, offense, to transport an illegal substance across state lines.

Can a patient be arrested for being too high? What about if driving, and how is it determined?

medical marijuana patient rights employee rights driving lawYou cannot be arrested for being “too high” anywhere–even in prohibition states, as it is impossible to really detect one’s level of “highness” the way we currently detect alcohol intoxication levels. However, it remains illegal to drive under the influence of any intoxicating substance, including marijuana. State law enforcement officials have had difficulty proving that an individual is under the influence of marijuana, as the cannabinoids present in your system remain long after the actual psychoactive effects of the drug have worn off. Therefore, it is more difficult to test for driving under the influence of cannabis than it is to test for driving while under the influence of alcohol. In Colorado, for example, the cutoff is 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, but people can exceed that threshold without even being “high,” i.e. impaired while driving. So, some people have been charged with driving while high even without actually being impaired by marijuana, which is a shame. Hopefully, in time, we will have the necessary science to conduct appropriate tests for detecting “high” drivers, as this is obviously a safety concern for the community.

What is the most common misunderstanding medical marijuana patients have regarding their rights?

A lack of employment law protection at the federal level, and in many cases, state level, makes it difficult for some qualified medical cannabis patients to get treatment, even if they are in desperate need of alternative treatment. That’s disturbing on so many levels.

About Green Light Law Group

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Photo provided by Green Light Law Group

With over thirty years combined legal experience and in-depth operational knowledge of Oregon’s marijuana industry, Portland-based Green Light Law Group provides premier legal solutions for the Oregon marketplace and entities working to scale beyond. While helping cannabis businesses understand and navigate the complexities involved in the marijuana industry, Green Light is uniquely positioned to provide legal services and counseling for new entrepreneurs, financiers, and established companies better than the competition.

Drawing from more than a decade’s experience providing advice to marijuana industry participants, the Green Light team applies extensive expertise in corporate, securities, real estate, and litigation matters. From the formation of new businesses, investing, financing, and lease negotiations, to licensing and litigation, Green Light Law Group is here to meet the industry head-on and help clients succeed.


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