A Federal Court in Connecticut ruled last week that approved medical cannabis employees can now sue their employers if they are refused work or fired after a positive test for cannabis
The judge who made the ruling decided that the illegal status of cannabis under federal law doesn’t preempt state protections prohibiting authorized medical cannabis patients from facing discrimination in the workplace.
The case in question was between the Bride Brook Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and a medical cannabis employee. The center argued that the Federal Schedule I status of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act provides a legal basis for its decision to backtrack on their job offer.
However, Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer refuted that position, saying, “This lawsuit calls upon me to decide if federal law preempts Connecticut law. In particular, I must decide if federal law precludes enforcement of a Connecticut law that prohibits employers from firing or refusing to hire someone who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes. I conclude that the answer to that question is ‘no’ and that a plaintiff who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes in compliance with Connecticut law may maintain a cause of action against an employer who refuses to employ her for this reason.”
The employee concerned, Therapist Katelin Noffsinger, claimed that she worked at the care home, but was then fired after she advised that she uses medical cannabis to treat her PTSD. She doesn’t smoke cannabis, but rather takes THC capsules.
Just one day before she was due to start her job it was taken off the table, after she tested positive for cannabis in her system. She claimed that the move was discriminatory and violated Connecticut’s medical marijuana law.
In a similar ruling in Massachusetts last month, it was determined that State medical cannabis patients can sue private employers for discrimination if they are unduly dismissed.
It remains to be seen what impact these two rulings will have on future medical cannabis patients and employment. What is clear, is that immediate provisions need to be put in place to assist medical cannabis patients whose jobs are on the line, simply because they need to take their medicine.
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