By Rick Coates
While the State of Michigan continues to be in somewhat of a cloud of
smoke over the Medical Marijuana Act of 2008, many employers have asked
where they stand legally on the issue with their employees who might have
medical marijuana cards. The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments
hopes to shed some light for employers this Wednesday, February 23, with a
workshop, Medical Marijuana - The Law and How it Impacts Your Business &
Employees from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City.
The panelists include Thomas S. Gilbert, an attorney and former judge who
is with Touchstone Intervention & Prevention Specialists in TC; Dr. Darryl
Lesoski, medical director of the Occupational Health & Medicine Department
at Munson Healthcare; and Grand Rapids attorney Donald Lawless, who
specializes in employment and labor law.
Each presenter will speak on their area of expertise followed by a round
Each of us will come in armed with the latest information in our
respective areas, said Dr. Lesoski. The challenge is that from an
employers perspective in Michigan the law has not been tested yet in the
courts. So without case law to address specifics it is challenging.
But Dr. Lesoski says this workshop will help educate and prepare employers
to develop policies.
Certainly, I encourage employers to have a clear-cut substance use policy
that is enforced consistently, said Dr. Lesoski. Often employers think
about policies for illegal drugs and dont take into consideration
prescription drug use and alcohol use. These policies are important.
Tom Gilbert launched his TouchStone Professional Services five years ago
to help those who need intervention from drug and alcohol dependency.
Gilbert a former judge in the area was nicknamed the pot smoking judge
after he was spotted smoking pot at a Rolling Stones concert in 2002. He
sought rehabilitation at the encouragement of his wife and friends and
after not seeking re-election chose to help others. Gilbert will bring a
variety of perspectives to the panel discussion.
We have an excellent attorney joining us already and Dr. Lesoski is
covering the medical end of it. My focus will be to identify abuse and to
discuss how to incorporate an effective intervention in the workplace if
necessary, said Gilbert. The people of Michigan have spoken and use of
marijuana for medical purposes is allowed, and as an attorney I would
defend that right. But as a person who has the disease of addiction I know
the other end of the spectrum.
With alcohol, 90% of the adult population is able to drink responsibly
and I am part of that other 10% and I am sure their is a similar number
with marijuana, Gilbert adds. So now we are issuing medical marijuana
cards to a certain percentage of the population that is addicted. So my
presentation will be focused on how employers may assist these employees.
For Gilbert and Lesoski the ambiguity of the law has both employers and
Certainly, using marijuana on the federal front is illegal and several
jobs will not allow for the use of it even if you have a medical marijuana
card, such as a person with a CDL, a school or public transportation
driver, said Lesoski. The way I read the Michigan act is that employers
are not required to accommodate employees who use medical marijuana. So if
your employer has a strict drug use policy that includes marijuana use,
they do not have to make an exception for you if you have a card.
Interest in the workshop has went beyond the organizers expectations. The
Economic Training Council of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments
has been spearheading the one-day workshop.
We are now getting calls asking us if we can take this on the road to
other parts of the country. Not sure if that is feasible, but we
anticipate offering this again in the region, said Sharon Gordon of the
Dr. Lesoski will take workshop attendees through the testing process and
how his department interprets test results. He will also give those in
attendance signs to look for to determine if an employee is high or
The challenge an employer is going to have is if they have a medical
marijuana acceptance policy and also have a drug testing policy, said
Lesoski. Since marijuana effects each individual differently it might be
difficult from a testing perspective to determine if a person is high
while working or used medical marijuana the night before.
Dr. Lesoski did address the issue that had been floating around the
medical marijuana community that Munson had issued an order that its
doctors could not make medical marijuana referrals.
I have never seen such a document and no one has told me that at Munson,
he said. In talking to several of my colleagues in the medical
profession, there are differing views. The challenge is that medical
marijuana has only been around for 20 years. What I mean by that is in the
medical community we have only been studying the medical aspects of it for
a short time. We still do not know all the potential positive or negative
aspects of it.
As for his perspective, Dr. Lesoski has mixed opinions.
My biggest problem is we are handing out these medical marijuana cards
like they are candy, said Dr. Lesoski. I am not arguing the fact that in
some cases where every possible form of treatment has been tried that some
people find there only relief for pain is with medical marijuana. But
there are several health risks that go along using marijuana. Certainly
some jobs in the workplace a person would not be able to perform if their
mind is altered from drugs or alcohol.
For info on the Medical Marijuana Workshop call 800-442-1074, or visit
nwm.org/ETC.asp. Registration is available online and is $75 per person.
This workshop is approved for 4 HRCI credits, includes continental
breakfast and lunch, and is recommended by area chambers of commerce.