As reported a few weeks ago here on Law & Daily Life, medical marijuana users face hurdles at their places of employment. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia currently permit medical marijuana use, but only two protect patients from being fired when they fail a drug test.
Courts have been left to decide the fate of medical marijuana patients in the other thirteen jurisdictions, and patients in Michigan now know where they stand.
To Walmart, medical marijuana flies in the face of its zero-tolerance policy for marijuana use amongst employees. Joseph Casias, who suffers from a brain tumor and sinus cancer, used to be one of these employees. But when Walmart found out about his medical marijuana use, he was fired. The ACLU took his case and filed suit.
Employers are subject to two levels of regulation--federal and state. Because federal law does not approve of or protect medical marijuana use, Walmart did not run afoul of federal law. However, Michigan does permit medical marijuana use, but only in limited circumstances. It is this law under which the Walmart medical marijuana policy was judged.
Walmart argued that the state law did not regulate private employers--only law enforcement. Essentially, the company claimed that the law was only intended to protect medical marijuana users from arrest and prosecution. It is on this basis, reports Reuters, that the judge decided that the Walmart medical marijuana policy did not violate state law. The ACLU plans to appeal, reports Yahoo! News.
Though this case was decided in Michigan, medical marijuana usage by an employee is not a unique problem. Courts in Oregon, California, Montana and Washington have also ruled that employers may fire medical marijuana users. One should expect this issue to see a lot of play in the next few years.