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Bill Introduced to Protect Cannabis Patients from Job Discrimination

By on January 13, 2021

SAN JUAN — Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz introduced House Bill 152, which prohibits employers from discriminating against workers who are registered and authorized to use medical cannabis as medical treatment.

“In both Puerto Rico and the United States, there are state laws that all allow for the use of medical cannabis by patients authorized and duly certified by the state,” Ortiz said in a press release. “However, it is not in all jurisdictions that there are labor protection laws in place to protect employees or aspiring employees from being discriminated against for using cannabis as one of their medications to treat their health condition. This causes patients to be vulnerable to being discriminated against and at risk of losing their jobs.”

The bill—which is co-authored by House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández and PDP Reps. Héctor Ferrer, Ramón Luis Cruz and Orlando Aponte—states that registered patients will be placed under a protected category within all employment protection laws in Puerto Rico.  

“The fact that being a patient who is treating their condition with medicinal cannabis cannot be an excuse to be discriminated against at their place of employment,” Ortiz stressed. “Our goal is to protect employees from being penalized for taking advantage of medical treatment that may be the best or only form of relief available for their respective conditions.”

The PDP lawmaker further explained that although Act 42-2017 allows for the use of medicinal cannabis, it does not protect employees who use it from being penalized. Therefore, this measure seeks to temper the rule of law to protect workers.

“Passage of this bill would give the employee-patient peace of mind to benefit from medical cannabis treatment without fear of being penalized and even fired from their job,” the lawmaker added. “The measure even protects the patient starting from the recruitment process through the hiring process.”

Ortiz pointed out that the measure incorporates certain exceptions, such as if an employer can prove that the use of medicinal cannabis poses a danger or interferes with the worker’s functions; jeopardizes a certification or permit issued by the federal government; or if the employee ingests the medicine during work hours without authorization.

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