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Joseph Casias has filed a lawsuit against Walmart with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Daniel Grow. Casias was fired from a Michigan Walmart after he tested positive for marijuana. The catch? He had a prescription from a doctor for medical marijuana due to cancer in his brain and nasal cavity. And medical marijuana is legal in Michigan.
The case has the makings of a U.S. Supreme Court showdown. Michigan, like 13 other states, has legalized the medical use of marijuana. However, under federal law, marijuana is illegal and there is no medical exception. State courts in California, Montana, Oregon and Washington have ruled that businesses do not need to allow their employees to use medical marijuana.
Joseph Casias says he uses marijuana to alleviate pain from his condition. Casias was recognized for an Associate of the Year Award at the Michigan Walmart in 2008. According to the lawsuit, Casias never used marijuana at work and never worked while under the influence. In November of last year, Casias injured his knee at work. The next day, while at work at Walmart, he was given a drug test. Casias says he presented his marijuana registry card to a store manager but he was ultimately fired for testing positive for the drug. "It's very unfair that I was fired," Casias said to the Michigan Free Press. "I hope that this doesn't happen to other medical marijuana patients across the state."
"No patient should be forced to choose between adequate pain relief and gainful employment, and no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in consultation with their doctors," Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project said to CNN.
Walmart has a different perspective on the matter, casting the issue as a matter of customer and employee safety. "As more states allow this treatment, employers are left without any guidelines except the federal standard," wrote Lorenzo Lopez, a director of media relations at Wal-Mart, to CNN. "In these cases, until further guidance is available, we will always default to what we believe is the safest environment for our associates and customers."
There is bound to be much more to come on this lawsuit as it is certain to draw considerable attention from legal analysts, policy makers and the media. We will monitor the situation as it potentially climbs its way up the legal latter and could potentially become the case that requires the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the validity of states that approve medical marijuana.