There are currently an estimated 2.1 million people registered for state-issued medical marijuana cards in the United States. If you are one of these people, you might be a little nervous about the mention of background checks. Many cardholders are concerned that they will be discriminated against in their workplace if either their employer or potential employer finds out that they use cannabis for medical purposes.
Cardholders may, in fact, have good reason to worry despite the fact that there are privacy laws in place meant to protect legal information. Although medical marijuana may be legal in various states across America, it’s still uncertain if your use could land you in trouble at work. Even though you may use it for medical purposes, it’s not easy to avoid the negative stigma often associated with marijuana.
With the instant accessibility present in today’s digital world, privacy is now seen as a luxury and a commodity. No group has expressed concerns over government monitoring more than the medical cannabis community. While there are legal safeguards in place to protect medical marijuana users, new drug war policing implemented by the Trump administration signals a sharp shift in marijuana enforcement, especially for immigrants and minorities.
These groups are being meticulously targeted by customs and immigration officials, along with law enforcement, which leads them to question the true privacy of patients information under the Trump regime. The easiest and best way to stay under the radar is to be in the know about your current state laws and also be responsible for keeping your use of medical marijuana a secret.
Marijuana and medical privacy
Individuals need to get a doctor’s recommendation in order to get a state-issued medical marijuana card. As with all other medical records, patient information is very much confidential and protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), which makes it nearly impossible for doctors to share information with the DMV, police, or companies who do background checks without any threat of criminal and/or financial penalties for those doctors. The HIPPA law sets a national standard that strictly bars the sharing of health information unless it is essential for patient care or other important purposes.
For obtaining a doctor’s marijuana recommendation, getting a marijuana ID card, or joining a collective to obtain marijuana, there are a few layers of privacy protection:
- Doctors: As discussed above, doctors and medical personnel are required under both the HIPPA and doctor-patient confidentiality rules to keep the privacy of your medical records.
- State ID cards: In states that allow you to obtain a medical marijuana card, like California, public employees are required to keep the privacy of patient records
- Marijuana collective: If you go to a collective or shop to buy marijuana or THC products and they request a social security number or driver’s license, the store is required to protect that information under most state laws.
In some sense, the government will know that you have a medical marijuana card since you asked the government for one. But generally, obtaining a medical marijuana prescription or recommendation shouldn’t alert the authorities. Your personal and medical information should remain private from both law enforcement and your employer.
Will medical marijuana show up on a background check?
The short answer is no. Since you can only obtain your state-issued card by a doctor’s medical recommendation, the information is protected under HIPPA. In other words, the law prevents any organization or institution for that matter, from sharing your letter and any other personal health information to a third party. In the same way that a person may be denied access to your health records, they won’t be able to access your medical marijuana information.
However, it’s important to note that although the status of your consumption is kept confidential under HIPPA, your state-issued card is not. But still, state officials are not allowed to access this information or provide it to an employer. There isn’t any way to access this data without authorization, and personal information like your social security number isn’t attached.
This means that when you go to a dispensary, they are only able to access their database to check if your card is valid but won’t have access to anything else concerning your personal or health information.
So will employers find out if you have a medical marijuana card after conducting a background check on you? The answer is a resounding “no!” Under no circumstances will your employer be able to access that kind of confidential information. In fact, neither will a bank lender, or future landlord has access to this kind of information. Even if you use the company doctor, they are not at liberty to share this confidential information with your employer.
This doesn’t mean that employers won’t find out
Even if your employer can’t get their hands on your medical marijuana records, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore using some discretion under your circumstances. For instance, it’s not advisable to frequent a marijuana dispensary near to your workplace where a colleague or supervisor will see you entering or exiting the premises. You also shouldn’t display your weed consumption on social media. Gossip can travel quickly within an organization and could get around to your boss.
It’s also worthwhile to note that although your background check won’t reveal your marijuana use, a random drug test will. Some employers may administer drug tests either before or after they’ve hired new employees. Since marijuana is still stated as illegal under federal law, you can be fired from your job despite having a prescription if you fail a drug test. The only states that currently have laws against companies taking adverse action against their employees for medical marijuana use are Arizona and Delaware, provided that it doesn’t impact their work.
Other states that have implemented medical marijuana laws either specifically allow employers to fire employees for medical marijuana use, or simply don’t address the issue at all. In states that don’t have a clear directive, courts have usually ruled in favor of the employer. For example, courts in Oregon, California, Washington, and California have all upheld an employer’s right to dismiss employees who tested positive for marijuana, even in cases where the employee had a valid prescription and only used cannabis while off duty.
At the end of the day, medical marijuana laws differ from state to state. Each state has different policies regarding registration, use, and possession limits. It’s always important to stay in the know regarding your particular state laws.
Medical marijuana information is safe
Ultimately, your medical marijuana information will be kept safe under the HIPPA act. Information will be protected under doctor-patient confidentiality as with any other health conditions and discussions. No doctor is at liberty to share any health-related or personal information with any institution, including law enforcement.
It is, however, important to consider that medical marijuana laws differ between states. It’s your responsibility to keep your marijuana use under wraps, and while your personal health records will be padlocked from just about anyone, you should use discretion, common sense, and always stay up to date with your state’s legislation changes.