Last week, Governor Pedro Pierluisi signed into law, Act 15-2021, which amends Act No. 42-2017, “Act to Manage the Study, Development, and Research of Cannabis for Innovation, Applicable Standards and Limits”, to provide employment protections to registered and authorized medical cannabis patients by creating a protected category for these employees in their workplaces.
Under Act 15-2021, employers shall not discriminate against an employee who is a registered and authorized medical cannabis patient in the process of recruitment, hiring, promotion, discipline, or termination, or with regards to any other terms and conditions of employment.
These employment protections are not absolute, as Act 15-2021 recognizes certain exclusions if the employer can establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, any of the following:
1. The use of medical cannabis represents a real threat of harm or danger to others or property;
2. The use of medical cannabis interferes with the employee’s performance and essential job functions;
3. The use of medical cannabis by the employee would expose the employer to the risk of losing any license, permit, or certification related to any federal law, regulation, program, or fund; or
4. The registered and authorized patient ingests or possesses medical cannabis in the workplace and/or during working hours without the employer’s written authorization.
Act 15-2021 provides that no employer shall be penalized or denied any license, contract, permit, certification, or benefits under the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for the sole reason it employs medical cannabis patients.
The provisions of Act 15-2021, are to be interpreted liberally in favor of the registered and authorized patients of medical cannabis.
AMG will remain alert for future developments since the Medical Cannabis Regulatory Board and the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources must adopt any regulations or administrative measures necessary to ensure the effective implementation of Act 15-2021 within 90 days by October 27, 2021. Act 15-2021 is effective immediately.
Through this recently enacted legislation, Puerto Rico joins a handful of states that have adopted policies that somehow address anti-discrimination protections for medical cannabis patients. AMG advises its clients to revise their drug testing and discrimination policies to comply with Act 15-2021. For further information or, if you should have any questions or comments, you can consult the Labor and Employment law team at AMG.
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The new Chambers & Partners Global Practice Guide- Employment 2021 covers 52 jurisdictions. The Puerto Rico chapter of the guide, contributed by AMG, provides the latest legal information on the legislative initiatives to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, terms of employment, non-compete and non-solicitation clauses, data privacy law, foreign workers, the role of unions, and employee representative bodies, termination of employment, employment disputes and dispute resolution. It also discusses the latest trends and developments in the area of Employment Law in Puerto Rico.
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