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The strange battle over marijuana continues. Despite many states legalizing, at least, medicinal marijuana, the stigma continues to prevail. Employers who cannot dismiss a person for being prescribed Xanax or morphine can dismiss an employee for testing positive for marijuana, even if the drug is prescribed.
A Washington State Supreme Court decision concluded that the medical marijuana act in the state protects users from criminal prosecution but it offers no protection from employer’s dismissals. The court ruled on a case that began back in 2006. A woman was fired from her job at a Bremerton customer service firm for failing a drug test. The woman testified that she uses medicinal marijuana for debilitating migraines.
The Washington state Supreme Court issued an 8-1 decision last week, pointing out that while it was legal to use marijuana for medical purposes, the state’s medical marijuana law did not make it mandatory for employers to accommodate pot use outside of work. While the law gives employers the authority to prohibit the use of pot while at work, it does not specifically define how the use of marijuana outside of work will be treated.
In addition, the Supreme Court ruled that the Human Rights Commission, which looks into cases of employee discrimination in Washington State, cannot mediate in medical marijuana cases, as marijuana use – medical or otherwise – is still considered illegal under federal law.
The case exposes ongoing inconsistencies in legislation regarding the rights of medical marijuana users. Michael Subit, the plaintiff attorney in this case, stated he would be “flabbergasted if qualified patients could lose their jobs simply for using medical marijuana at home in accordance with the act.” The problem with marijuana and drug testing is that there is no accurate test to determine if someone is actually under the influence. Marijuana has such a slow half life that the drug will show up in someone’s system long after the effects have worn off. Employers over the last decade or so have made drug testing the norm, dismissing potential employees for positive drug testing. However, the standard drug test does not work in states where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes. The drug will show up in drug tests and can be used to unjustly discriminate against those individuals with disabilities. Doesn’t the American with Disabilities Act protect against just this sort of thing? The inconsistencies and the new challenges suggest that this dilemma may have to be solved by the U.S. Supreme Court.