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Courts Rule Workers Cannot Be Denied Employment for Medical Cannabis Use

Courts Rule Workers Cannot Be Denied Employment for Medical Cannabis Use

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Courts Rule Workers Cannot Be Denied Employment for Medical Cannabis Use

After years of upholding employee firings for use of cannabis even under state medical marijuana programs, the courts are finally starting to turn around on the question.

One of the ways state medical marijuana programs have failed to fully extend protection to medicinal users is in their failure to defend against employment discrimination. This is now beginning to change, thanks to a few recent court decisions in favor of patients and employees.

The case of Connecticut health care worker Katelin Noffsinger was profiled by the Associated Press on Oct. 2. At her job interview with the Bride Brook Health & Rehabilitation Center in Niantic, where she had applied for the position of recreation therapy director, Noffsinger openly stated that she used a medical marijuana product to control the PTSD she has suffered from since a car crash — and emphasized that she only took it before bed at night, so she would not be under its influence on the job. Nonetheless, when a drug test came back positive for THC, the nursing home withdrew the job offer.

Noffsinger went to court in 2016, and last month District Judge Jeffrey Meyer in New Haven ruled that the nursing home had violated an anti-discrimination provision of Connecticut’s medical marijuana law.

The case isn’t over, as the judge denied Noffsinger’s request for punitive damages. The next move is a trial to determine whether she should receive compensatory damages for lost wages from not getting the job.

Further details are provided by the Jackson Lewis law blog. Noffsinger was registered as a “qualifying patient” under Connecticut Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA). She was, however, actually using Marinol — synthetic THC in capsule form. And Marinol is an FDA-approved prescription drug and is in Schedule III, the DEA classification for drugs with legitimate medical applications and a low potential for abuse. This despite the fact that the DEA officially clarified in December 2016 that all cannabis extracts remain in the highly restrictive Schedule I — the same classification as the cannabis plant itself. The ostensible justification for this contradiction is that Marinol contains a synthetic form of THC, not an actual plant-derived extract.

In any case, Marinol’s legal status makes the denial of the position to Noffsinger all the more outrageous.

Similar Victories in Massachusetts, Rhode Island

As the Associated Press account notes, the Connecticut decision was the first ruling of its kind in a federal case. But it followed similar recent rulings against employers by state courts in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This begins to reverse an earlier trend, which saw the high courts in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington rule in favor of employers in discrimination suits over medical marijuana use.

“This decision reflects the rapidly changing cultural and legal status of cannabis, and affirms that employers should not be able to discriminate against those who use marijuana responsibly while off the job, in compliance with the laws of their state,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said to AP.

By the count of the National Conference of State Legislatures, 31 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, now have medical marijuana programs, while 15 others have more limited programs allowing use of low-THC (but high-CBD) preparations for medical use. Only nine states, including Connecticut, have explicitly barred employment discrimination against medical marijuana users.

In June 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a sales and marketing company wrongly fired employee Christine Barbuto after she tested positive for marijuana, which she used under the state’s medical program to treat her Crohn’s disease. And in May 2017, the Rhode Island Supreme Court found that a college student was wrongly denied an internship at a fabric company after she acknowledged she could not pass a drug test because of her medical marijuana use. The denial was deemed to violate the state’s disability discrimination act, as well as provisions of its medical marijuana law.

The American Bar Association called the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island cases “an emerging trend in employment litigation” and advised employers to take state medical marijuana laws into consideration when crafting their drug use and testing policies.

All this must surely be viewed as vindication by Brandon Coats, a Colorado quadriplegic who was fired by a satellite TV company in 2010 after he failed a drug test. In June 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court decision that the company’s “zero tolerance” drug policies were not pre-empted by Colorado’s medical marijuana law.

TELL US, do you think that employees have a right to use medical marijuana?

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. J

    December 7, 2018 at 6:12 am

    I live in a state where we have medical but my corporate office is in a state where they do not have medical. How does that work??

  2. Mark

    December 6, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    I am a injured on the job employee for a municipality and have been prescribed 800 mg Motrin,flex aril, and a hydrocodone and Cannot operate any city equipment if I take the hydocodone 24 hours prior, since being prescribed these meds I have had severe stomach,esophagus and kidney problems. My point is medical marijuana doesn’t have any of these side effects and will help with my pain but I will be sent to rehab the first offense and fired for the second prescribed or not.PS I THINK THIS IS Bull S _ _ _ as it has cost me so much out of pocket money for surgeries and doctors visits from the side effects of there legal pain management rules.

  3. Wellhung

    November 10, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Working in the Nuclear industry you will get fired and banned for 5 years for the first offence, second time banned for life.

    • J

      November 10, 2018 at 6:26 pm

      A nurse can take an RX benzo or other controlled substance (even during their shift) and have no issues so long as she doesn’t appear impaired. If the nurse takes mmj to sleep and takes a pre employment drug test As a nurse you will get placed in the impaired nurse program and not be allowed to work as a nurse unless you comply with ever single crazy expensive thing they tell you to do for a minimum of 5 years.

  4. UltraKat75

    November 9, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling

    https://www.inverse.com/article/44211-where-marijuana-is-legal-all-50-states

    https://en.wikipedia.org
    /wiki/Removal_of_cannabis_from_Schedule_I_of_the_Controlled_Substances_Act

    Hey, I am sure everyone here is all too familiar with the above links,
    although for purposes of reference they are always good.
    OK, so the short of it is that yes technically employees can hold
    the use of Marijuana against employees or prospective employees.
    Why? So far to date, Marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule 1 Narcotic
    and still VERY illegal on a Federal Level.

    Yes, the Obama administration did some important things for letting states decide
    how they want to deal with Marijuana. However, they also did not make it legal
    at the Federal Level nor more importantly remove it from the DEA schedule
    altogether. More recently, the now former US AG Jeff Sessions removed all
    of the actions from the previous administration in regards to letting states
    decide how to handle enforcement. (Although unofficially there has not been any
    real-world enforcement changes in states where it is legal or is in the process of
    legalized.)

    Whatever happens, it needs to be removed from the DEA schedule,
    pretty much the only way this will ever happen is through an act of
    Congress. We can do this! If you are able to vote, vote out every single person
    every single election for Congress every 2 years until they get this done!
    Vote out all the Democrats, Vote out all the Republicans…..if we keep
    changing Congress every 2 years….within a decade this would be a done deal…..
    quite possibly less than half a decade.
    only way this will ever happen (though are a few other ways)

  5. Wilbur

    November 8, 2018 at 10:29 am

    This is setting a precedent if employers can fire you over legally obtained medicine then that means anybody taking any legally obtained medicine can be fired for the same thing even if you get prescribed hydrocodone or if you are taking cough medicine before you go to work believe it or not you are impaired and if weed is in the same category as prescribed drugs than all prescribed drugs can get you fired you cannot say one is better than the other when you have done no research just because something is FDA-approved does it mean it is okay for you the FDA approves drugs that can cause death marijuana 0 deaths and until they start doing research on drugs and their effect in the workplace in different kinds of workplaces not just one set form and actually do a scientific study to determine the total impairment for each specific job and the risk of smoking marijuana while on that job or the risk of taking hydrocodone while doing that job then you are pretty much just saying stuff to say it and any business that would fire somebody over a legal medicine deserves to fall and with over 50% of America for marijuana it looks like your business is could be getting boycotted soon

  6. Regina

    October 24, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    well that’s wonderful let me get mine going let me light it up take my coffee to work with me should all you can do is have a laughter and happy times and get it done and at least this drug won’t have people getting killed or having some weirdo acting silly only thing the most is even a person being real silly with a lot of laughter so I don’t find it no harm shouldn’t have been harm with it.

  7. Ashley

    October 15, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    Is the state in clubaia sc alegola

  8. Johnettelynn

    October 15, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I did not read anything about workman’s comp I was told it’s a safety violation and workman’s comp would not cover you

    • Peter

      October 17, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      I live in Connecticut and I believe I was the first to receive 100% reimbursement for my medical marijuana under workers compensation

  9. Casey

    October 12, 2018 at 6:52 am

    Yet we still dont discriminate against people who use alcohol? Cannabis has so many hateful lies about it. Class 1 has no medical benefit. Then why are states going medical? The surge in medication people are using other forms of medicine that work and are cheaper. Education is key… https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/9210248

    • Jim

      December 6, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Alcoholics get fired all the time. I tend bar, that doesnt mean i can drink at the same time, but if i get fired because im an alcoholic on my own time. Thats wrong. Same goes for cannabis.

  10. Shawn Severson

    October 11, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Yes, I believe that cannabis should be leagal. I live in Wisconsin and wish I could ask the rite people who are with the legalization why they dont approve of it. It is so much safer than narcotics, nicotine, alcohol etc. I truly think its ridiculous to not have it leagal.

    • Raymond Slater

      October 13, 2018 at 6:39 am

      The reason it is so hard to get legalized is because it is a plant and the government can’t control the profits from it. The FDA can’t approve it because of all of the different strains and types of marijuana plants. One plant can have little THC while other plants can have high THC levels. Not being able to regulate a strength of a drug disqualifies it from being approved or protected by the FDA. I agree it should be legal everywhere but just wanted to give a little insight to why it is so hard to legalize as a medical drug.

  11. paul kwiatkowski kasper

    October 11, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Wise move Judges.. because you cannot and will not be permitted to ban nature nor humanities use of it as a food nor medicine..

  12. Lynn Kempen

    October 10, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Amendment 2 on Missouri’s ballot actually establishes a constitutional right for employers to discriminate against medical “marijuana” patients.

  13. Bobby

    October 7, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Yea the top is darker

    • Lynn Kempen

      October 11, 2018 at 9:14 am

      and then there is New Approach Missouri’s horrible medical “marijuana” measure that wants to establish a constitutional right for employers to discriminate against medical “marijuana” patients.

      Amendment 2 = Prohibition 2.0.

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