Washington high court denies employment protection for medical marijuana users

[JURIST] The Washington Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] that the state's Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MUMA) [RCW 69.51A, text] does not prohibit private employers from firing an employee who fails a mandatory drug screening. The plaintiff, recorded as Jane Roe to protect her identity, argued that MUMA required her employer to exempt her from its drug test policy for legal medical use of marijuana outside the workplace. Since the original MUMA language explicitly protects employers from being required to accommodate on-site medical use of marijuana, Roe argued the statute then implicitly requires employer accommodation of medical marijuana use outside the workplace. The court disagreed:

Amicus Pacific Legal Foundation aptly addressed the logical fallacy of Roe's argument. ... As amicus explains, when the major premise is a universal negative (employers are not required to accommodate on-site use), and the minor premise negates one aspect of the major (the plaintiff uses marijuana off- site), it is logically invalid to adopt as a conclusion the contrapositive (employers are required to accommodate off-site use).
In an 8-1 decision the court concluded that MUMA does not prohibit an employer from discharging an employee for medical marijuana use, nor does it provide a civil remedy against the employer. MUMA also does not proclaim a sufficient public policy to give rise to a tort action for wrongful termination for authorized use of medical marijuana.

The decriminalization of marijuana has been a contentious issue. Last week the Global Commission on Drug Policy [official website] released a report [JURIST report] calling for the international legalization of cannabis, marijuana and other drugs. The panel emphasized treatment and programs that discourage children from taking drugs, rather than relying on harsh punishments. The report stated that the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 [text, PDF] and the US's "War on Drugs" both have failed. Last month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website] filed a federal lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking a declaratory judgment over the legality under federal law of the State's legalization of medical marijuana [JURIST report] passed in November 2010. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 14 US states. In October 2009, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] issued guidelines for a new policy [JURIST report] for investigating and prosecuting state-sanctioned medical marijuana use. Those guidelines reflect a pledge made by Holder in March to stop federal raids [JURIST report] on medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state laws. However, Holder has emphasized that if a state legalizes drugs for recreational use, as California attempted last year [JURIST report], federal law will be enforced [LAT report].

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.