A legal case surrounding a woman who was denied employment for using medical marijuana could have broad legal implications. In particular, a federal judge recently ruled in favor of the woman who was denied the job. Now, experts think the case and others like it could establish a new, pro-medical marijuana precedent.
Judge Rules in Favor of Medical Marijuana Patients
The conflict at the heart of the case first arose in 2016. That’s when healthcare worker Katelin Noffsinger applied to work at Bride Brook Health & Rehabilitation Center in Niantic, Connecticut.
When the test results came back, Bride Brook refused to hire Noffsinger, even though she had fully disclosed her medical marijuana use to the company.
A short time later, Noffsinger filed suit. She claimed that Bride Brook was violating state laws. Ultimately, she argued that she was discriminated against for using medical marijuana.
Noffsinger’s case was eventually heard by a federal judge. Last month, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer ruled in favor of Noffsinger. He reportedly denied her request for punitive damages. However, her case is now headed to trial to see if she is entitled to compensation for last wages.
Changing Legal Attitudes?
Noffsinger’s case is being heralded as part of a growing trend in which judges appear to be ruling in favor of medical marijuana patients. In the past, such cases would often end up going against the medical marijuana patient.
But in recent years, judges throughout the country are starting to change their verdicts. And in many cases, the outcomes are similar to Noffsinger’s. More and more, courts are ruling against companies that deny employment on the basis of medical marijuana use.
These decisions could be setting a new precedent in which medical marijuana patients are protected against discrimination in employment.
In fact, Judge Meyer used his ruling to make some potentially important points about marijuana law. Of course, the heart of the tension in these cases is the discrepancy between state laws that allow for marijuana and federal laws that do not.
But some of Meyer’s comments seem to shed light on this discrepancy. In particular, he said that in cases like Noffsinger’s, employers often cite concerns about breaking federal laws. Often employers point to the Drug Free Workplace Act.
But Meyer said that the Act does not actually require employers to conduct drug tests. Similarly, the law does not bar federal contractors from hiring medical marijuana patients who comply with state and local laws.
Given all this, Meyer concluded that there was no pressing reason for Bride Brook to deny employment to Noffsinger. Beyond the context of this specific case, his comments could give other judges a powerful precedent in which employers cannot use the Drug Free Workplace Act to justify refusing to hire medical marijuana patients.