Court Ruling: Employees Can’t Be Fired For Medical Marijuana
How will this ruling from Massachusetts’ highest court affect the future of medical marijuana patients who face termination?
In Massachusetts, it’s official: employees can’t be fired for medical marijuana.
Most states have a medical marijuana program in some form, and a few states are legalizing weed for recreational use. However, the fact remains that cannabis is still illegal on a federal level. The federal prohibition of weed presents a multitude of problems. It particularly poses an issue when it comes to medical marijuana.
A lot of jobs require that prospective employees pass a drug test before they can officially be offered a position. While we all have tips and tricks for passing a urine test last minute, these company policies can make things incredibly difficult for medical marijuana patients. Even if they can pass a drug test to get the job, their employer might be a fan of random drug screenings. In this case, they could find themselves in a pretty serious predicament.
There are currently twenty-nine states that have a medical marijuana program. That’s over half the country. Since this is the case, it would make sense to have a federal law that states that employees can’t be fired for medical marijuana
However, our country isn’t quite there yet. We’re making progress though.
In 2015, Christina Barbuto, a medical marijuana patient in Massachusetts, lost her job. The reasoning behind the termination was that Barbuto screened positive for cannabis.
In the past, losing your job due to weed use was just something that you had to get over. In the past, your only option was to pick yourself up and find a new job.
But we’re living in a new age with new laws.
Barbuto uses medical marijuana, prescribed by her doctor, to cope with her Crohn’s disease and IBS. Weed has been legal for medicinal use in the state of Massachusetts since 2012.
When Barbuto was fired, she did the smart thing, and lawyered up. She and her lawyer, Matthew Fogelman, sued her former employer for disability discrimination.
The court initially dismissed the suit. Undeterred, Barbuto and Fogelman brought the case to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
The Ruling: Employees Can’t Be Fired For Medical Marijuana
If the title of this article didn’t already give it away, the court ruled in Barbuto’s favor. Despite the fact that cannabis is federally illegal, Chief Justice Ralph Gants said Barbuto’s former employer did not act in accordance with reasonable accommodation protocols. From Reuters:
“The fact that the employee’s possession of medical marijuana is in violation of federal law does not make it per se unreasonable as an accommodation.”
In layperson’s terms, the ruling means that in the state of Massachusetts, reasonable accommodations from an employer must extend to medicinal cannabis.
Employees can’t be fired for medical marijuana. If they are, then it is in direct violation of the American’s With Disabilities Act.
Final Hit: Why It Matters
Fogelman called the court’s ruling a “groundbreaking decision.” He’s absolutely right.
The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled in the favor of a medical marijuana patient. This creates precedence for not only the state, but the entire country. It also gives more legitimacy to the medical marijuana.
The United States isn’t where it should be in terms of legalizing weed, but it’s getting there. And with this new ruling, it’s going to happen even faster.