Michigan AG braces for legal fight against denying unemployment benefits to cannabis consumers

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"Employers cannot control their employees’ private lives by calling the legal use of marijuana outside of work hours ‘misconduct.’"

Michigan residents who consume cannabis may be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if employees are shown to have cannabis metabolites in their systems when drug-tested — even if the employee consumed the drug on their personal time, and despite the fact that medical and adult-use cannabis are legal in the state.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed an amicus brief earlier this month contending that employees fired for cannabis consumption outside their working hours and place of work should remain eligible to receive unemployment benefits, reports US News.

Cannabis metabolites can be detected for days, weeks, and even months after consumption in heavy users, making it difficult to impossible for employers to determine if a worker was acutely high at the time of a workplace incident.

“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 offence and is not a ground to deny any right or privilege in the State of Michigan,” Nessel wrote in the 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 says that the state’s decision to legalize cannabis in 2018 negates any argument in favour of blocking unemployment benefits from those who consume cannabis on personal time.

“The people spoke loud and clear when they voted in 2018 to legalize marijuana once and for all,” she 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.’”

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