Court: Firing Someone for Medical Marijuana Use Is Illegal Discrimination

Photo by Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/MCT via Getty Images

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Monday in Massachusetts that voter approval of medical marijuana means that employers can no longer simply fire employees who test positive for THC, if the workers can prove they are consuming it with a doctor’s recommendation.

The ruling comes from the case of Cristina Barbuto who suffers from Crohn’s Disease and was using MMJ several times a week to help ease the pain.

Barbuto, who had informed her new bosses of her illness and her MMJ usage, got fired after only one day on the job when she tested positive for marijuana.

She was told by the human resources department of Advantage Sales and Marketing (ASM) that, “we follow federal law, not state law.”

Sorry, ASM. The Supreme Court ruled that Massachusetts law takes precedent; Barbuto was doing something legal under state law and was not putting the company at risk because she was not toking up at work.

The justices noted that when Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana in 2012, it explicitly banned discrimination:

“Any person meeting the requirements under this law shall not be penalized under Massachusetts law in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, for such actions.” 

Barbuto qualifies as “handicapped” under state anti-discrimination laws because her Crohn’s Disease is “a debilitating medical condition.”

Furthermore, she would have been able to perform her job with “reasonable accommodation” by her employer, if they had allowed her to consume MMJ a couple of times a week in the evening.

An attorney for ASM told the Boston Globe they were “confident” that the company had acted lawfully, but the Supreme Court begged to differ.

“…The law does not ignore the fact that the policy resulted in a person being denied employment because of her handicap.” 

The justices ruled that employers cannot enforce blanket anti-MMJ policies against workers with doctors’ recommendations any more than they can discriminate against the use of insulin by diabetics.

Of course, the court added that its ruling may not apply in all cases.

Trucking companies, for example, might have a case that a driver’s marijuana use could impair his job and safety.

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