“But I have a Marijuana Prescription”

>>> National Drug Screening is pleased to present a series of articles about marijuana in the workplace and to clear up many questions regarding medical and recreational marijuana.  These articles are authored by Jo McGuire who is a leading national expert on the issues of marijuana and the workplace.  Jo McGuire provides


We welcome Jo McGuire to our NDS Blog and we hope you will find these articles interesting and beneficial, here is the first one –

“But I have a Marijuana Prescription”

It is one, simple word that conveys a wealth of meaning. It alters our perceptions and our responses. It carries value that generates immediate respect.

The word is “prescription”.

It validates the need for someone to use a substance that only a physician can provide access to or allow.

When used in the workplace, we associate it with HIPPA rules, treating it with care and caution.

It’s no wonder that this word is intentionally used to create a massive amount of misperception, misdirection and confusion. For the one thing that does NOT exist – in ANY State in the U.S. – is a prescription for marijuana.

As states enact laws that allow for marijuana to be used for medical purposes, we tend to think that patients visit their doctor, receive a prescription for a certain dose with a recommended delivery system or specific product. But that is far from how it works.

Most people are quite surprised to discover that “medical marijuana” cards are absolutely NOT a prescription, but a simple license to obtain and be in possession of a certain amount of cannabis.

There are 2 simple reasons marijuana cards are not prescription:

1)      Cannabis remains a Federal Schedule 1 Drug because it meets all of the scientific criteria which include a risk of dependence, absence of medical efficacy and the inability to create dosing standards

2)      Physicians licensed to practice in the U.S. are not allowed to prescribe any substance that is classified as Schedule 1

The reality is, once a participant requests a recommendation for marijuana from a physician who engages in a state’s marijuana program, the physician my issue a participation card but that is the limit of their involvement. From that point forward, the participant seeks the advice of experienced users and experiments with a variety of marijuana products until they find something that they feel is effective. There are no warnings or contra-indicators for conflicts with other medications or diseases. Products are not pharmaceutical grade medications; they are simply marijuana. Users do so at their own risk.

So why does this matter?  Particularly in the workplace, when employers hear the word “prescription” it means, “back off”. Privacy rights come into play. And while you may have the right to know an employee is using medications for a valid reason, privacy and discrimination rules create protections for that employee.

These protections do NOT apply to marijuana.

Since marijuana cannot be prescribed, it is not HIPPA compliant, therefore it has no protections that hinder an employer from taking action that violates a company’s sound drug policy. While it is true that several states have created anti-discrimination rules, these are fairly simple to follow by enforcing your policy consistently and clearly for everyone.

Regardless, when an employee flashes their medical marijuana card and says, “There’s nothing you can do. I have a prescription.” the employer will do well to remember that their employee is misunderstanding the nature of their card. They are simply admitting their drug use.

It is vital that employers train their HR personnel and managers to understand that safe and drug-free workplace policies are the priority for maintaining safety and productivity. Make sure your workplace drug and alcohol policy is up-to-date, clearly written, frequently communicated and consistently enforced to maintain optimal operating conditions.

By Jo McGuire


Jo McGuire is a Denver native who served on the Colorado Governor’s Task Force to implement the regulatory framework for Amendment 64, representing employer’s rights to safe and drug free workplaces. As a national expert, she has authored dozens of articles for a variety of trade magazines and is a sought-after conference speaker and webinar presenter on the impact of marijuana in the workplace.  She also assists TSS Inc with special projects. Jo is the Chairman-Elect of the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA merged with NDASA in 2023) and chairs the Marijuana Outreach Committee.

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But I have a Marijuana Prescription
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