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Toking At Home Shouldn’t Impact Unemployment: Mich. AG

Nobody over 21 can be penalized or denied unemployment benefits solely for legally using marijuana, says Michigan’s AG

Bridge Michigan

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel doesn’t believe legal marijuana use should be grounds to disqualify someone from unemployment benefits.

At least three cases centered on pot use have landed before the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Commission, reports Mlive.com. In each, the company required employees to take a drug test. The test indicated they had marijuana metabolites in their system. Metabolites are found in hair follicles for 90 days or more after the most recent use. They can show up in urine tests for more than 45 days in heavy users.

The employers in each case attempted to use the test results to deny unemployment benefits, since state law disqualifies anyone who tests positive for a controlled substance. In two of these cases, administrative law judges sided with the employee, and in one with the company.

Attorney General Nessel and her staff on Monday submitted a brief in the case supporting the rights of employees to use legal marijuana.

‘Employers Cannot Control Their Employees’ Private Lives’

“Marijuana was not used on the job or on the employers’ premises, nor did it impair the employee during work hours,” the attorney general’s office said, reports Marijuana Moment.

“Employers cannot use a code of acceptable conduct to avoid paying unemployment benefits to workers who, on their own time, engage in legal behavior the employer simply does not like,” according to the AG’s office.

“The people spoke loud and clear when they voted in 2018 to legalize marijuana once and for all,” Nessel said. “Employers cannot control their employees’ private lives by calling the legal use of marijuana outside of work hours ‘misconduct’.”

An employer involved in one of the three cases claimed that because it had a policy against marijuana, smoking weed amounted to “misconduct.”

They maintain that means it warranted loss of unemployment benefits.

Nessel’s office is asking the seven-member unemployment commission to side with the three individual claimants.

Nessel, the state’s top law enforcement official, argued that the statute’s drug disqualification only applies to illegal drugs. Marijuana is no longer an illegal drug in Michigan for anyone over 21. The federal government still lists marijuana as a controlled substance.

There is no timetable for when the administrative judges might rule on the unemployment appeals. Their decision will likely create guidelines for employees and employers regarding implications of legal Cannabis use outside of the workplace.

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