Federal judge upholds Wal-Mart firing of medical marijuana user

[JURIST] A federal judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that Wal-Mart [corporate website; JURIST news archive] did not wrongly fire an employee who had been using medical marijuana to treat a brain tumor. In dismissing plaintiff Joseph Casias' lawsuit, Judge Robert Jonker determined that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) [materials] is in place to protect licensed medical marijuana users, but employers are not prohibited from adopting policies that ban marijuana use regardless of cause. Casias was administered a drug test per Wal-Mart policy, tested positive, and was subsequently notified of the termination of his at-will employment. As Jonker stated in the opinion, the MMMA does not regulate private employment:

Nowhere does the MMMA state that the statute regulates private employment, that private employees are protected from disciplinary action should they use medical marijuana, or that private employers must accommodate the use of medical marijuana outside of the workplace. Under Plaintiff's theory, no private employer in Michigan could take any action against an employee based on an employee's use of medical marijuana. This would create a new protected employee class in Michigan and mark a radical departure from the general rule of at-will employment in Michigan.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] said it will appeal the ruling [press release], arguing that the court's decision does not uphold the intentions of Michigan voters.

Courts have been forced to interpret state medical marijuana statutes in recent years. In January 2010, the California Supreme Court [official website] overturned [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] a 2003 law limiting the amount of marijuana that may be possessed under the state's Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) [materials]. Earlier that month, New Jersey became the fourteenth US state [JURIST report] to legalize medical marijuana. In November, voters in Maine approved [JURIST report] an expansion of the state's existing medical marijuana laws, making Maine the fifth state to allow dispensaries, following California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. California's Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in 2008 that the MMP is not in conflict with the Supremacy Clause [JURIST report], and does not violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

 

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