Green Aid Activist: Fired Worker, ACLU Sue Wal-Mart

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]

Take Action!

• 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:

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.

Thank you,
[your name]



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1 Comment

  1. Richard N. Lake on

    Newshawk: This Is a Very Important Ruling
    Pubdate: Mon, 12 Jul 2010
    Source: Jackson Citizen Patriot (MI)
    Copyright: 2010 Jackson Citizen Patriot
    Author: Danielle Quisenberry, Jackson Citizen Patriot
    Referenced: Michigan Supreme Court ruling
    Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)
    Bookmark: (Cannabis – United States)


    A recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling makes it more difficult to prove drugged-driving cases involving marijuana.

    The high court overturned a 2006 ruling that 11-carboxy-THC — a long-lasting byproduct of metabolism created when the body breaks down the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana — is a schedule 1 controlled substance, a drug classification that includes heroin.

    Now, prosecutors will have to prove drivers had the actual narcotic or its active ingredient in their systems at the time they are alleged to have been driving while drugged.

    Previously, people could have been charged with a driving offense involving drugs long after they had ingested or inhaled marijuana because the metabolite remains in the body for a month after use.

    Defense lawyer Jerry Engle said this means people who were convicted since 2006 of drugged-driving based on a finding of the metabolite should be talking to a lawyer. Their convictions could be set aside, he said.

    In Jackson County, there might have been 100 such cases, he said.

    Jerrold Schrotenboer, Jackson County’s chief appellate attorney, is not so sure. “I am not particularly concerned about a flood of overturned convictions or motions,” he said.

    Operating with the presence of a controlled substance in the body is a misdemeanor and people only have six months to challenge a misdemeanor, he said.

    The two lawyers argued the topic of 11-carboxy-THC before the Supreme Court in January 2006, after which the court made the ruling it recently overturned.

    At issue were cases from Jackson and Grand Traverse counties. The local case involved the prosecution of Dennis Kurts for driving with marijuana in his system.

    Blackman Township police in February 2004 cited Kurts, 44, of Michigan Center after he was stopped for driving erratically. He admitted smoking pot, but a blood test did not detect the narcotic THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is in marijuana. It did show the presence of carboxy THC.

    The most recent Supreme Court ruling stemmed from a 2005 Washtenaw County case. George Evan Feezel was traveling on Packard Road in Ypsilanti Township when his vehicle struck and killed pedestrian Kevin Bass.

    Feezel was legally drunk and had 11-carboxy-THC in his blood. He was charged with several offenses, including drugged driving causing death.

    Based on its ruling about the metabolite, the high court vacated the drugged-driving conviction and remanded case to the Washtenaw County Circuit Court.

    This could be considered a victory for those who use marijuana for medical reasons, which Michigan voters legalized in 2008.

    “(The Supreme Court) had to change the law, or everyone who takes medical marijuana could not drive a car,” Engle said.

    Before, legal marijuana users would have to worry about being caught with the metabolite in their bodies well beyond the time they could feel the drug’s effects.

    “The threat of a sick person not being able to drive because of a health decision was beyond the scope of reason,” Joe Cain, chief operating officer for the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, wrote in an e-mail. He said the law was being used as a “weapon against the innocent.”

    Schrotenboer pointed out, however, the existence of the metabolite still can be used as circumstantial evidence of drug use. Calling 11-carboxy-THC a controlled substance makes prosecution “really, really easy,” he said.

    “Otherwise, it is a little bit harder.”

    Under the drugged-driving statute, only the presence of a drug has to be proven, not a quantity, as is required with drunken driving.

    “Hopefully prosecutors will not look for another exploit of our law, but will try to only prosecute those who are truly impaired,” Cain wrote.