A Michigan Court of Appeals has recently ruled that employers in the The Great Lakes State can legally fire or refuse to hire medical marijuana patients.
The ruling comes as the conclusion to a lawsuit filed against the Lansing Board of Water and Lights by registered medical marijuana patient Angela Eplee. Eplee's suit claimed that she had a job offer rescinded after she tested positive for cannabis and the company was therefore discriminating against her as a patient. While the company maintained that the reason Eplee was denied the job had nothing to do with her drug test results or her "status as a registered qualifying patient under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act," the court found that employers have the right to discriminate against patients anyway.
According to the court ruling, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act does not prevent employers from having a zero-tolerance policy on cannabis use. The Act protects patients from "arrest, prosecution, or penalty," but does not "create affirmative rights" for them. The court ultimately decided that since the "harm [Eplee] suffered was the loss of an employment opportunity in which she held absolutely no right or property interest", denying her employment was justified under the law. In other words, the court decided that discriminating against medical marijuana patients is completely legal in Michigan.
As Eplee's lawyer Brandon Gardner says, the new ruling sets a precedent that could be used on many other medical marijuana patients in Michigan.
"The decision obviously is disappointing for the public work force here in Michigan, particularly those who thought they had any type of protection under the Medical Marihuana Act," Gardner told The Growth Op. "The ramifications are that there is no job security for any medical marijuana user in Michigan."
The ruling in Eplee's case comes in opposition to a number of recent rulings by courts in other states that have moved to protect patient rights. In the face of such cases states like Maine have implemented legislation that would prevent employers from discriminating against medical marijuana patients.
Hopefully Michigan lawmakers will get ahead of this issue and bring forward some employment protection for patients before this finding is used to unjustly destroy the livelihood of another medical marijuana patient.