November 2022: Puerto Rico Disability Discrimination Law Now Protects Medical Cannabis Users

02 Nov

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Update Applicable to:
All employers in Puerto Rico.

What happened?
Puerto Rico’s disability discrimination statute (Law 44-1985), the local counterpart of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has been amended by Law 90-2022, signed by Governor Pedro Pierluisi, and will extend coverage to registered and authorized medical cannabis patients.

What are the details?
Before the amendment, Law 44-1985’s definition of a “qualified individual with a disability” excluded all active users of illegal substances, as defined by federal law. Since marijuana is illegal under federal law, medical cannabis patients were not protected under the statute.

This exclusion appeared to conflict with Puerto Rico’s Law 15-2021, which created a protected category for registered and authorized patients. Law 15-2021 provides that an employer cannot discriminate against registered and authorized patients of medical cannabis in the recruitment, hiring, designation, or termination process or when imposing disciplinary actions.

With the new amendment, the apparent conflict has been reconciled.

For employees who comply with the requirements to be authorized medical cannabis patients, employers will have to go through an interactive process with the employee to determine if the user may be accommodated.

Importantly, the ADA does not protect cannabis patients at this time since it is an illegal substance under federal law. For employees in Puerto Rico, however, the more beneficial protections apply.

Law 90-2022 went into effect on October 14, 2022.

For more information, please see the links below:

Puerto Rico Legislative Measures

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above, review the protective benefits of employees who use medical cannabis, and ensure their managers and supervisors are properly informed to prevent possible discrimination.

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