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In Some States You Can Be Fired from Your Job for Using Legal Medical Marijuana

While you would think a state legalizing medical marijuana would provide security to cannabis users, in Michigan that is not the case

The Lansing State Journal recently published an article outlining how using medical marijuana with a prescription in Michigan can still lead to someone getting fired. The controversy began in 2009 when Joseph Casias was fired from his job after failing a drug test because he had a prescription for medical marijuana to help treat sinus and brain cancer. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Casias' employer, stating that it was against the law for the company to fire him for doing something that was perfectly legal. But a U.S. District Court judge and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals both sided with Casias' employer and upheld the firing. 

It isn't 100 percent clear whether or not the state of Michigan did or did not institute protections to prevent an event like Casias' firing from happening. Michigan is an "at-will" employment state, meaning companies can fire people for any reason and don't have to establish "just cause" to do so. And while employees cannot be forced to take drug tests, they can also be fired for refusing to comply with one.

However, the state did say that medical marijuana patients would be protected from punishments caused by their medical marijuana prescription, including "disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau." So that would seem to imply that employees can't be fired for using prescription marijuana, right?

Well, that's not what the courts decided. They said that "business" is just another word for licensing board or bureau, and that not all businesses would be subject to that line.

“Based on a plain reading of the statute, the term 'business' is not a stand-alone term as Plaintiff alleges, but rather the word 'business' describes or qualifies the type of 'licensing board or bureau,'" Judge Eric Clay wrote in his decision on Casias' case.

However, a 2014 case seemed to contradict the Casias case. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the state could not deny unemployment benefits for three people who were fired for using medical marijuana. But the court didn't say that the actual firings themselves were unjustified.

It seems weird to have a medical marijuana law in place but allow companies to fire people for using cannabis. That would basically mean only unemployed or self-employed people would be able to get a prescription without the risk of running afoul with their employer. And it's not just Michigan where this is the case. Many states do not have protections in place for employees using medical marijuana. That's just completely illogical.

(h/t Lansing State Journal)


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