Medicinal Cannabis in the Workplace
By: Angel Berberena, Esq.
July 30, 2021
On July 29, 2021, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi, signed into law an amendment to the Medicinal Cannabis Act of 2017. The Act of 2017 authorized the medicinal use of cannabis in Puerto Rico but did not extend its protections to employees or the workplace.
The recently enacted amendment extends the general protections established in the Medicinal Cannabis Act of 2017 to employees in the workplace. In doing so, registered and authorized patients who identify as such to their employers will be considered within a protected classification and employers are specifically prohibited to discriminate against them in recruitment, hiring, promotions, termination or to take adverse action. To further protect patients and their employers, the amendment provides that an employer cannot be penalized or be refused contracts, licenses, certifications, benefits, or funds because of the hiring of patients.
The amendment does provide four exclusions to these protections if:
- the use of medicinal cannabis represents a real threat to people or property;
- the use of medicinal cannabis by a registered and authorized patient exposes the employer to lose a license, permit, certification related to some other law, regulation, program of federal fund; or
- the registered and authorized patient uses or is in possession of medicinal cannabis in the workplace and/or during working hours without written authorization of the employer.
These protections must be interpreted liberally in favor of the registered and authorized patient. Furthermore, the employer has the burden of proof, by preponderance of evidence, to establish that the employee falls within any of the exclusions to deny the protections under the Medicinal Cannabis Act of 2017 as amended.