Puerto Rico Governor signs law safeguarding medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination

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(Pictured) Puerto Rico’s Governor Pedro Pierluisi

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On July 29, 2021, Act No. 15-2021 (Act 15) was signed into law by Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi. 

The signing of this act confirms amendments to Act No. 42 of July 9, 2017, otherwise known as “The Act to Manage the Study, Development and Research of Cannabis for Innovation, Applicable Standards and Limits (Medicinal Cannabis Act).”

Following the amendment’s signature, licensed and registered medical cannabis patients can now benefit from expanded employment protections.

Aside from permitting the use of medical cannabis to those who have received a doctor’s recommendation, The Medicinal Cannabis Act also grants patients access to various other rights; so long as they are duly authorized to be suffering from a severe health condition. 

In order to be included in the legal framework surrounding expanded employment protections in Puerto Rico, the doctor issuing the recommendation and the individual on the receiving end must maintain a secure doctor-patient relationship.

About Puerto Rico’s Medicinal Cannabis Act

Based on the details of Puerto Rico’s Medicinal Cannabis Act, patients (much like those in cannabis-friendly states across the United States) can register to receive cannabis-based medicines. In order to qualify for plant-based treatments, patients must have first obtained a doctor’s diagnosis for one of the listed health conditions.

The Act’s original draft featured an extensive list of rules that were exempt from information pertaining to employment protection. Because of this, lawmakers have since focused their attention on anti-discrimination policies and drug-testing requirements for employees.

With Act 15’s approval, medical cannabis patients in Puerto Rico are safeguarded from employer penalization for use of the drug. However, the rule only applies for patients who identify themselves as authorized and registered patients under the country’s Medicinal Cannabis Act.

Employers in Puerto Rico, regardless of the industry, are now forbidden from discriminating against medical cannabis patients; whether in the case of employment termination, recruitment or hiring. It’s important to note that, while the statute’s protections are liberally clarified in favor of patients who use medical cannabis, Puerto Rico’s employee protections are subject to change.

Reasons why protections for Puerto Rico’s Medicinal Cannabis Act could be lifted

Although the amendments to Puerto Rico’s medical cannabis law stipulate that patients are exempt from discrimination for consuming the plant in its pharmaceutical form, protections included in the Act will not be valid if an employer is able to present proof of the following:

  • Medical cannabis consumption poses a hazard to the working environment and/or the people inside;
  • Use of the plant in medicinal form negatively impacts the authorized patient’s ability in carrying out work-related duties to a high standard;
  • Registered and authorized patients put the employer at risk of losing the necessary permits, licenses and all certifications associated with regulations, federal laws, funds and/or programs of any kind;
  • The employed medical cannabis patient possesses or ingests medical cannabis during working hours and/or in the business environment without first obtaining written authorization from the employer.

Furthermore, the legal framework contained in Act 15 clarifies that an employer’s/employees licenses, permits or contracts cannot be rejected, withdrawn or penalized simply because a registered and authorized medical cannabis patient works at the specific Puerto Rico employer’s premises.

Within 90 days of Act 15’s approval on or before October 27, 2021 the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources and the Regulatory Board of Medicinal Cannabis must implement the vital rules.

Act 15 is effective immediately.