SJ Quinney College of Law, University of Utah


When landlords or employers know that someone is using opioids, either legally or illegally, the consequences can be significant. Rental housing or employment are both critical to well-being, yet may be at particularly high risk. As this Article argues below, legal protections in these areas are inadequate. To summarize the argument briefly, a crucial legal problem for people suffering from substance abuse disorders is that current illegal use of controlled substances is excluded from the definition of disability in federal anti-discrimination statutes. A history of substance abuse is a disability protected from discrimination, but recent relapses vitiate this protection. Relatedly, federal law still criminalizes the medical use of marijuana and federal anti-discrimination law reflects the federal prohibition rather than legalization under state law. The legal use of prescription opioids and medication assisted treatment (MAT) is protected under anti-discrimination law, but many employers subject MAT patients to increased scrutiny and others continue to insist on drug free workplace policies that prohibit their employment.