Georgia’s Medical Marijuana Law Includes No Employment-Discrimination Protection

On April 16, 2015, Governor Nathan Deal signed legislation immediately legalizing the use of a low-potency form of cannabis oil for medicinal uses. However, unlike many other medical marijuana laws enacted recently, the Georgia law contains no language protecting medical marijuana users from employment discrimination. Indeed, the law provides considerable protections for employers from employees reporting to work or remaining on duty after consuming the drug. It states: “Nothing in this article shall require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in any form, or to affect the ability of an employer to have a written zero tolerance policy prohibiting the on-duty, and off-duty, use of marijuana, or prohibiting any employee from having a detectable amount of marijuana in such employee’s system while at work.”

The new law, House Bill 1, known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” permits patients suffering from cancer, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders, and sickle cell disease to possess up to 20 ounces of “low THC oil.” The low-THC oil can contain no more than five percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive agent in marijuana. Smoking marijuana is not permitted under the law. (The Act is named after a child suffering from chronic seizure disorders who, having had hundreds of seizures a day, moved from Georgia to Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal.)

Although the law is effective immediately, the state Department of Public Health must promulgate rules and regulations for the establishment and operation of the patient registration process and dispensing of registry cards to individuals and caregivers. The law creates a Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis to prepare comprehensive recommendations regarding the potential regulation of medical cannabis in the state, among other things.

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