Can Employers Fire Medical Marijuana Patients? To anyone who has ever had to take a drug test at work…you may want to pay attention.
Joseph Casias of Battle Creek, Mich., is suing Wal-Mart in Calhoun County Circuit Court, claiming that he was wrongly fired after testing positive for marijuana. Casias, a lawfully registered medical marijuana patient, is a father of two and was Wal-Mart Associate of the Year in 2008. He uses medical marijuana to treat an inoperable brain tumor as well as cancer.
Wal-Mart fired Casias last year after he tested positive for marijuana, even though he never came to work under the influence. To add insult to injury, they also contested Casias’ eligibility for unemployment, leaving him without an income. About a week ago, Casias filed a lawsuit against his former employer with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The case may end up deciding whether employers in Michigan are allowed to fire their employees for pursuing their human right to health care.
The question has already come up in other states, and the courts have not been 420-friendly. California, Montana and Oregon courts have already held that employers have the right to fire cannabis patients, even if they consume strictly at home for the treatment of life-threatening illnesses in full compliance with state law.
But Casias’ case is different. Michigan’s medical marijuana law clearly states that a registered patient is protected from “arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner” for using medical cannabis. The Michigan law also specifically says that employees are protected from discipline or termination from their employers for consuming cannabis if they are registered patients, as long as the employee isn’t under the influence at work.
Scott Michelman, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the lawsuit will test what kind of protection Michigan really offers its medical cannabis patients.
“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,” Michelman said.
Send medical marijuana related events in need of attention to [email protected]
• Boycott Wal-Mart… (you should be doing this anyway for a number of reasons) and let them know why you’re angry! Call or write Wal-Mart’s “Ethics” department at: 1-800-WM-ETHIC.
You can also send an electronic complaint at: www.walmartethics.com/gcs/ethicsconcern
To the Wal-Mart Ethics Department:
I am contacting you to admonish your company for its treatment of Joseph Casias, a former Associate of the Year who was fired from your Battle Creek, MI, store for being a medical marijuana patient. Your company is preventing a model employee from pursuing his basic human right to health care, in clear violation of Michigan state law, and your customers are taking notice of Wal-Mart’s act of medical terrorism.
No human being should be forced to choose between health care and employment. I will be joining the nationwide boycott against your company until Wal-Mart rehires Joseph Casias and changes its HR policies involving medical marijuana, and will be watching the situation closely in the future.