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Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

 

medical marijuana 

Minnesota has not passed a medical marijuana law, but 14 states and the District of Columbia have, and occasionally such laws have employment law implications.  The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit two weeks ago against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and the manager of its Battle Creek, Michigan store for wrongfully firing an employee for using medicinal marijuana in accordance with state law.

Joseph Casias, the Battle Creek Wal-Mart’s 2008 Associate of the Year, was fired from his job at the store after testing positive for marijuana, despite being legally registered to use the drug under Michigan’s medical marijuana law.  Casias has sinus cancer and a brain tumor in the back of his head and neck that was the size of a softball when it was first diagnosed. His condition has forced him to endure extensive treatment and chemotherapy, interferes with his ability to speak and is a source of  constant pain. Nonetheless, he had been employed for more than five years by Wal-Mart in Battle Creek, where he began as an entry-level grocery stocker in 2004 and worked his way up to inventory control manager.

In 2008, Michigan voters enacted the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which provides protection for the medical use of the drug under state law. After the law was enacted, Casias’ oncologist recommended that he try marijuana for pain relief, and so Casias obtained the appropriate registry card from the Michigan Department of Community Health

Michigan’s medical marijuana law protects patients registered with the state of Michigan from “arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner” for the use of medicinal marijuana as prescribed by a doctor and also protects employees from being disciplined for their use of medical marijuana in accordance with the law. The law does not require employers to accommodate the ingestion of marijuana in the workplace and does not protect employees who work under the influence of the drug.   Casias’ lawsuit claims that he complied with both of these conditions.

If the allegations in the Complaint are true, it is hard to see how Wal-Mart can win this one (either legally or in the court of public opinion!)  So stock up on the Doritos and stay tuned in !


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