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Michigan: Medical Marijuana Patients Can Collect Unemployment

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Michigan workers who use medical marijuana are eligible for unemployment benefits in the event they are fired for failing a drug test, according to a recent verdict by a state court of appeals. Last Friday, a panel of judges upheld the decisions of three separate cases in which workers were terminated from their positions solely because they violated workplace drug polices with the use of medical marijuana.

The court found that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act superseded the Michigan Employment Security Act, and therefore protects working medical marijuana patients from being withheld unemployment benefits. “The plain language of the MMMA’s immunity clause states that claimants shall not suffer a penalty for their medical use of marijuana,” according to the verdict.

The ruling stems from three cases that emerged between 2010 and 2012 in which employees were permanently dismissed from work duties after failing random drug screenings. Although medical marijuana is legal in the state of Michigan, employers still have the right to employ “drug free” policies, which usually includes the use of medicinal cannabis. However, while positions under these policies are not immune from termination, the appeals court maintains that a positive test for medical marijuana does not disqualify a worker from collecting employment pay.

“It’s a very favorable decision for the civil rights of employees in Michigan,” attorney and executive director of Michigan NORML, Matt Abel told the Detroit Free Press. “They still can be fired for medical-marijuana use — even off the job, which we think is wrong. But now, at least they can’t be barred from unemployment benefits for that reason alone.”

Michigan cannabis advocates argue that while it is unjust to terminate a worker because he or she uses legally obtained medical marijuana, the latest verdict is a substantial win. “This is not the ultimate victory but it’s a big step in the right direction,” said medical-marijuana patient and Lyon Township political candidate, Steven Greene.

Therefore, while patients/workers in the Wolverine State still run the risk of losing their jobs as a result of using medical marijuana, this will not prevent them from collecting unemployment benefits.

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