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ACLU sues Wal-Mart for discharging employee for medical marijuana use

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against Wal-Mart for discharging a five-year employee after testing positive for marijuana, despite being legally registered to use the drug under Michigan’s medical marijuana law to treat the symptoms of his inoperable brain tumor and sinus cancer ( Casias v Wal-Mart Stores, Inc, MichCirCt, complaint filed June 29, 2010). Joseph Casias has suffered for more than a decade from sinus cancer and a brain tumor. His condition has forced him to endure extensive treatment and chemotherapy, interferes with his ability to speak and is a source of severe and constant pain. The complaint alleges wrongful discharge in violation of public policy and violations of Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act. The ACLU is partnering with the law firm of Daniel W. Grow, PLLC.

Effective December 4, 2008, Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act allows for the use of medical marijuana to treat or alleviate the pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer and certain other diseases. The MMMA protects qualifying patients in possession of a registry identification card from “arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner” for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the Act; the Act also prohibits disciplinary actions by businesses or occupational or professional licensing boards or bureaus for the medical use of marijuana. However employers are not required to accommodate employees who use medical marijuana and employers may still prohibit medical marijuana use in the workplace. According to FAQ on the Act, Marihuana is one of two acceptable spellings in the dictionary and is consistent with the spelling in the Michigan Public Health Code, Act 368 of 1978, and
Initiated Law of 2008.

After the law was enacted, Casias’ oncologist recommended that he try marijuana as permitted by state law. Casias obtained the appropriate registry card from the Michigan Department of Community Health. The results were immediate and profound: his pain decreased dramatically, his nausea dissipated and Casias was able to gain back some of the weight he had lost during his cancer treatment. According to the ACLU’s complaint, Casius was discharged because he failed a drug test; he injured himself at work, twisting his knee, and Wal-Mart has a policy requiring drug tests for all employees injured at work. At no time did Casius smoke marijuana at work or come to work under its influence, said the ACLU.

“Today, 14 states and the District of Columbia provide protections for patients who use marijuana as recommended by a doctor,” said Kary L. Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “This case will be closely watched by patients across the country who rely on this medicine for pain relief and on their state laws for protection against unscrupulous employers.”