Business people, doctors and politicians stir the pot regarding legalization’s toll on the Connecticut workplace
"http://sbcselpa.org/media//#visit_us">Gov. Dannel Malloy has made the sanctioned use of medical marijuana official. On May 31 he signed legislation allowing Connecticut residents to legally obtain the drug if a physician has determined it will help assuage the effects of a serious medical condition.
The effect this new law will have on businesses remains hazy, and few companies are willing to speculate or even discuss how they might need to adjust their policies regarding employee performance in the workplace to accommodate the legislation.
Aetna, one of the stateÂ’s major employers, declined to comment through spokesperson " _online" online.usan Millerick, Likewise, Andre Williams, director of media relations at General Electric, another of ConnecticutÂ’s corporate titans, preferred not to comment. They are typical of companies that appear to be shying away from the issue, at least for now.
H.B. 5389, Â“An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana,Â” gained " _online" online.enate approval by a comfortable margin, with 21 senators voting in favor of the measure, 13 opposed to it. The House approved the bill in April by a 96-51 vote.
The new law makes Connecticut the 17th state to approve use of marijuana for medical purposes. The District of Columbia also has decriminalized its medicinal application.
MarijuanaÂ’s active ingredient, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, affects nerve cells and can impede normal physiological functioning. While under the influence of marijuana, for example, a user could also become disoriented and experience cognitive problems such as memory, perception and coordination impairment, according to medical experts.
Marijuana has been used for medical purposes, however, to help relieve symptoms and effects of ailments ranging from asthma to glaucoma to multiple sclerosis to cancer.
Â“This legislation is about accomplishing one objective: providing relief to those with severe medical illnesses,Â” said Malloy in a statement released immediately after the bill cleared the " _online" online.enate hurdle in May. But he also acknowledged lingering skepticism.
Â“I understand many of the concerns raised by opponents,Â” Malloy stated. Â“We donÂ’t want Connecticut to follow the path pursued by some other states, which essentially would legalize marijuana for anyone willing to find the right doctor and get the right prescription. In my opinion, such efforts run counter to federal law. Under this proposal, however, the [state] Department of Consumer Protection [DCP] will be able to carefully regulate and monitor the medicinal use of this drug in order to avoid the problems encountered in some other states.Â”
At the Connecticut District Office of the U. " _online" online. " _online" online.mall Business Administration ( " _online" online.BA) in Hartford, administrators have fielded few, if any, questions about how to address the medical marijuana law, according to District Director Bernard " _online" online.weeney. But even if it did, the office would not be able to help a business draft and/or implement policy.
Â“By virtue of us being a federal agency that really only does loans and management counseling, we wouldnÂ’t get involved in issues like that,Â” says " _online" online.weeney.
One interesting development the office has experienced, however, is a few calls from people interested in starting a marijuana growing and/or dispensary operation.
That too would lie outside " _online" online.BAÂ’s jurisdiction. In fact, the new law specifically designates the consumer protection commissioner as the responsible agent for establishing standards and licensing qualifications for no more that ten producers throughout the state. The commissioner is charged with setting a maximum number of dispensaries, drafting regulations for their operation, and ensuring that only licensed pharmacists be approved to operate them.
The new law specifically lists glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and cancer as among several Â“debilitating medical condition[s]Â” for which marijuana can be used. A physician must recommend it as a remedy in writing, and the user must register with the DCP before beginning treatment.
However, the stateÂ’s medical community does not necessarily concur with lawmakers about the extent of marijuanaÂ’s medicinal attributes. The Connecticut " _online" online.tate Medical " _online" online.ociety, along with the Connecticut chapter of the American " _online" online.ociety of Addiction Medicine, issued a testimonial statement in March opposing the bill. Three months later, it stands by that opposition.
Â“The Connecticut " _online" online.tate Medical " _online" online.ociety continues to have concern about smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes,Â” asserts a recent release from Audrey Honig Geragosian, C " _online" online.M " _online" online.Â’ director of communications. Â“There is inadequate scientific evidence to suggest its benefits outweigh either concern for patient and public safety or the long-term health risks posed by ingestion through smoking.Â”
C " _online" online.M " _online" online. President Michael M. Krinsky, MD notes that the Massachusetts Medical " _online" online.ociety also opposes the use of medical marijuana. The measure is being considered in the Bay " _online" online.tate; if the state legislature doesnÂ’t act on a bill that would legalize medical marijuana use, voters could be able to decide the issue via a ballot question this November.
Â“The regulations [for Connecticut] have not been written yet, so anything anybody is thinking would be pure speculation,Â” says Krinsky. Â“We have no guidance whatsoever. If anything, [physicians should] wait and see how things are written.Â”
Krinsky stresses that C " _online" online.M " _online" online. emphasizes Â“evidence-based medicine,Â” and that there also are federal laws that must be abided. He also notes the cost for those who do receive medical marijuana prescriptions might be restrictive for some patients.
Â“Just because itÂ’s legal doesnÂ’t mean insurers are going to cover it,Â” he says, adding, Â“ItÂ’s a very complicated issue on so many different levels.Â”
As far as the workplace is concerned, " _online" online.BAÂ’s " _online" online.weeney echoes the opinion of many when he offers that the bill is directed toward patients with Â“numerous health issuesÂ” and those who are Â“seriously ill.Â” People with such debilitating medical impairments, many maintain, are unlikely to maintain a daily work "http://www.ninecakes.com/media/buyonline//#buy__online"> outside the home.
Malloy himself, in his statement lauding " _online" online.enate passage of the legislation, noted the Â“thousands of people in Connecticut who will likely benefit from this legislation as the struggle with debilitating and life-threatening illnesses.Â”
However, the law does not bar workforce participation for employees using medical marijuana.
"/#there">On the contrary, the law states that, except in situations involving federal law or for which securing federal funds would be jeopardized, an employer cannot fire or decline to hire a person because that person uses medical marijuana. Â“No employer,Â” states the bill, Â“may refuse to hire a person or may discharge, penalize or threaten an employee solely on the basis of such personÂ’s or employeeÂ’s status as a qualifying patient or primary caregiver.Â”
Dr. Michael M. Krinsky a Harrtofrd Neurologist took the helm of the Connecticut " _online" online.tate Medical " _online" online.ociety last " _online" online.eptember and quickly found himself in disagreement with lawmakeers over Medical Marijuana.
" _online" online.till, while supporting employee rights, the new legislation also tries to be mindful of employer needs. The bill stipulates that marijuana cannot be ingested in the workplace, among other prohibited locations, and its medical use is allowable only to the extent that it does not endanger the well-being or health of another person.
In addition, the measure recognizes the possibility of work-performance concerns and states that the bill should not be interpreted as restricting Â“an employerÂ’s ability to prohibit the use of intoxicating substances during work hoursÂ” or Â“any employerÂ’s ability to discipline an employee for being under the influence of intoxicating substances during work hours.Â”
Then, there is the proverbial elephant in the room: the concern that the medical marijuana law would be utilized to obtain marijuana by persons who do not have serious medical conditions.
" _online" online.ome in the medical community, including members of the Connecticut " _online" online.ociety of Eye Physicians, take issue with a least one of the lawÂ’s specified Â“palliative use[s] of marijuana.Â” During public hearing testimony opposing the legislation in March, Trumbull ophthalmologist " _online" online.teven Thornquist, a past president and current legislative chair of the Connecticut " _online" online.ociety of Eye Physicians, voiced that concern.
Â“Our concern specifically is with listing glaucoma, a condition that is rarely debilitating and that is not responsive to any palliative effect that has been attributed to marijuana,Â” stated Thornquist, who said he was representing Â“over 90 percent of the ophthalmologists in Connecticut and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, representing 29,000 members.Â”Â Thornquist went on to say that vision loss, Â“the primary symptom that occurs with glaucoma, does not abate in response to marijuana so there is no opportunity to use it for a palliative effect.Â”
And if people who do not need medical marijuana find a way to obtain it anyway, the situation then becomes a law-enforcement issue.
But the lawÂ’s supporters are just as adamant. " _online" online.tate "/books/buyxanaxonline//#there">there. Penny Bacchiochi (R-52) of " _online" online.omers began to champion what she referred to as Â“the therapeutic effects of marijuanaÂ” after seeing her husband suffer through the debilitating side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. And New Haven " _online" online.tate " _online" online.en. Martin Looney (D-11), majority leader, noted in hearing testimony that not only would the legislation help Â“citizens with certain debilitating medical conditions,Â” it also would benefit the state through Â“the generation of sales tax revenue created by [medical marijuana] dispensaries.Â”
" _online" online.o, it seems as if the full impact on the workforce and in the workplace of the new medical marijuana legislation has yet to be measured. And for better or for worse, it appears that the impact will be fully realized only after the new law has taken effect.