As an ever-increasing number of states legalize medical marijuana, more and more people are realizing the powerful therapeutic properties of cannabis. Yet, because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level of government in the USA, many are worried that obtaining a medical marijuana card may raise red flags if and when they ever have to submit to a background test for employment or other purposes. 

With so many Americans across the United States still incarcerated for possession of personal amounts of cannabis, it is understandable why one would want to protect themselves against unemployment and even potential criminal charges. However, those who wish to obtain legitimate medical cards in states that have legalized medical cannabis can rest assured that doing so will not raise any red flags on a background check. However, there are some grey-areas of which you should be aware.

All Personal Medical Records Are Protected By HIPAA 

In the United States, a patient’s entire medical record is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also commonly referred to as HIPAA, which is a federal law introduced in 1996 with the aim of protecting personal patient health information from being disclosed without a patient’s knowledge and permission. HIPAA was enacted in part to prohibit confidential medical information being exposed, either accidentally or deliberately. Under HIPAA, all information relating to a person’s health is recognized as private and sensitive, and the law therefore makes it unlawful to disclose any part of a patient’s medical record without their explicit consent. 

All discussions you have with health professionals remain protected under HIPAA, including cannabis related care.  You should be aware that if you get care in a group practice or hospital owned practice, other practitioners on your care team will likely have access to your cannabis care information (as they should in order to be able to provide appropriate medical care to you). Further, if your cannabis specialist works outside your usual medical care system, they likely will (and, again, should) provide protected correspondence back to your care team as a matter of proper communication for your benefit. 

Having a Medical Marijuana Card Will Not Necessarily Protect You From a Drug Test 

It is unlawful for a potential employer to access your medical records without your permission, but there are certain circumstances where an employer or other authority may require you to pass a drug test in order to gain employment or for another type of opportunity. Commercial Driver’s Licensing and other high risk jobs are examples and the rules around this are federal. 

In these circumstances, having a state medical cannabis cards does not protect you.  You may be rejected or even fired if they find THC or other cannabinoids in your system.

In some cases, drug testing is not a matter of law, but rather company policy, in which case the card may be protective, and often a letter on your behalf from your cannabis specialist is helpful too. 

Are There Other Risks of the Card?

The largest concern I’ve seen has been federal subpoena of state cannabis patient databases. There have been three such cases so far: in Oregon, California, and Colorado.  In the case of Colorado the list was provided, in Oregon they refused to provide it and nothing happened.  California is recent and ongoing.  In no case has there been any exposure of patient information to the public, nor have there been any repercussions to patients. So, while there is theoretical risk of being in those databases, we have yet to see any negative consequences

Consult with a Qualified Boston Medical Marijuana Expert Today

Ultimately, those considering using medical marijuana to help manage their condition should not be concerned that becoming a medical marijuana patient will lead to drastically fewer opportunities, or put them in any sort of legal jeopardy. Everyone considering using cannabis therapeutically is encouraged to seek out the guidance of a trained medical marijuana expert who can best guide them towards safe and effective cannabis use. Massachusetts medical marijuana doctor Jordan Tishler, M.D. sits on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has years of experience helping patients treat pain and other ailments using cannabis. He and the team at InhaleMD stand ready to assist patients in determining whether medical marijuana is right for them. If you would like to set up a virtual consultation with Dr. Tishler or the team at InhaleMD, call us at (617) 477-8886 today. 

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