The Michigan attorney general is throwing her hat into the ring in a fight over whether cannabis users should be denied unemployment benefits.
Currently, Michigan residents who use cannabis may be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if they are shown to have it in their system when drug-tested – even if the employee consumed it on their personal time, and despite the fact that medical and adult-use cannabis are legal in the state, according to a report by The Regina Leader-Post.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wants that to change. Earlier this month, Nessel filed an amicus brief contending that employees fired for cannabis consumption outside their working hours and place of business should remain eligible for unemployment benefits. The brief was filed with Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission, and addresses three separate cases in which employees were involved in work-related incidents, tested positive for cannabis, but claimed to be sober at the time of the accident.
Cannabis metabolites can be detected for days or weeks – or even months in some cases – following consumption. That makes it difficult or impossible for employers to tell if a worker was high at the time of a workplace incident, the Leader-Post reported.
“These cases present an issue of first impression and statewide importance: whether the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA) means what it says: that the use of marijuana is not unlawful, not an offense and is not a ground to deny any right or privilege in the State of Michigan,” Nessel wrote in the amicus brief. “The Commission’s ruling on this issue will directly impact many law-abiding Michigan workers who may be terminated for the use of marijuana.”
Nessel said that Michigan’s decision to legalize pot in 2018 nullifies any argument in favor of denying unemployment benefits to people who use cannabis on their personal time, the Leader-Post reported.
“The people spoke loud and clear when they voted in 2018 to legalize marijuana once and for all,” Nessel said in a press release. “Nobody over 21 can be penalized or denied any right or privilege solely for legally using marijuana, and employers cannot control their employees’ private lives by calling the legal use of marijuana outside of work hours ‘misconduct.’”