The local fire department in Bridgeport, Connecticut has refused to hire a man after discovering he is a legal medical marijuana patient.
James Bulerin III had his lifelong dreams of becoming a firefighter dashed after testing positive for marijuana on his required drug screening. Bulerin is a registered medical marijuana patient in Connecticut where the drug has been legal for patients with certain conditions since 2012. Those laws also serve to protect patients from employment discrimination, says Bulerin's lawyer, so his rejection from the position is unlawful.
"The city has disqualified him from being a firefighter which is a clear violation of the state law," Bulerin's lawyer, Thomas Bucci told CT Post. "As long as he is not using the drug during working hours, he can't be denied an employment opportunity."
Bucci has since filed a discrimination lawsuit against the city on Bulerin's behalf, and a hearing is scheduled for February 21.
Bulerin isn't the first person to sue an employer in Connecticut for discriminating against medical marijuana patients. In October 2018 a federal judge ruled that Katelin Noffsinger was unfairly prevented from getting a job at a Hartford rehab center because she was a medical marijuana patient. Bucci says the court's ruling on that case makes him confident that a judge will make a similar finding in Bulerin's lawsuit.
In the face of similar discrimination cases, states like Maine have begun to implement clear guidelines around how employers can treat medical marijuana patients. However, strong anti-marijuana sentiments persist across the country, and medical marijuana still isn't treated the same way as most other prescription medications. This means patients across the country continue to face unfair screening practices and are denied from jobs for which they would otherwise be highly qualified.