Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed legislation legalizing medical cannabis on February 2, 2022. Known as the “Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act”, the law permits the use of medical cannabis to treat certain debilitating medical conditions including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, ALS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, cachexia or wasting syndrome, chronic pain, severe or intractable nausea, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms, among others. The law was effective immediately upon signing by the Governor, although medical cannabis will not become available for months.
Medical cannabis products will include cannabis flower, cannabis extracts, edible cannabis products, beverages, topical products, ointments, oils, tinctures and suppositories.
The medical cannabis law contains many favorable provisions for employers. Specifically:
- Employers are not required to permit or accommodate the medical use of medical cannabis, or to modify any job or working conditions or any employee who engages in the medical use of cannabis, or seeks to engage in the medical use of cannabis;
- Employers are not prohibited from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, or otherwise taking adverse employment action against an individual with respect to hiring, discharging, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment as a result, in whole or in part, of that individual’s medical use of medical cannabis, regardless of the individual’s impairment or lack of impairment resulting from the medical use of medical cannabis;
- Employers are not prohibited from establishing or enforcing a drug testing policy;
- Employers may discipline employees who use medical cannabis in the workplace or who work while under the influence of medical cannabis.
- The law does not interfere with, impair or impede any federal requirements or regulations such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s drug and alcohol testing regulations;
- The law does not permit, authorize or establish an individual’s right to commence or undertake any legal action against an employer for refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against an individual with respect to hiring, discharging, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges or employment due to the individual’s medical use of medical cannabis;
- Employers and their workers’ compensation carriers are not required to pay for or to reimburse an individual for the costs associated with the medical use of cannabis;
- The law does not affect, alter or otherwise impact the workers’ compensation premium discount available to employers who establish a drug-free workplace program in accordance with Miss. Code Section 71-3-201 et seq.;
- The law does not affect, alter or otherwise impact an employer’s right to deny or establish legal defenses to the payment of workers’ compensation benefits to an employee on the basis of a positive drug test or refusal to submit to or cooperate with a drug test, as provided under Miss. Code Sections 71-3-7 and 71-3-121;
- The law does not authorize an individual to act with negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, in breach of any applicable professional or occupational standard of care, or to effect an intentional wrong, as a result, in whole or in part, of that individual’s medical use of medical cannabis;
- The law prohibits smoking and vaping medical cannabis in a public place or in a motor vehicle;
- The law prohibits operating, navigating, or being in actual physical control of any motor vehicle, aircraft, train, motor boat or other conveyance in a manner that would violate state or federal law as a result, in whole or in part, of that individual’s medical use of medical cannabis; and,
- The law does not create a private right of action by an employee against an employer.
Mississippi employers should review the law to determine whether any revisions to drug and alcohol testing policies or other workplace policies will be necessary.