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Aclu Bids To Reinstate Suit Over Walmart Worker's Medical Marijuana Firing


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http://www.freep.com/article/20110427/NEWS06/110427033/1001/rss01

 

The American Civil Liberties Union today asked a federal appeals court to revive its lawsuit that claims Walmart wrongfully fired a Battle Creek employee who used medical marijuana to treat a brain tumor and cancer.

 

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker dismissed the ACLU’s lawsuit in February, holding that Michigan’s medical marijuana law does not require companies to accommodate employees who are medical marijuana patients, nor does it prohibit them from firing employees for drug use.

 

But in a filing today with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the ACLU argued that Jonker got it wrong. Specifically, the ACLU argued that Jonker ignored the text of the state’s medical marijuana law that prohibits businesses from firing patients who use marijuana in accordance with state law. The ACLU also argued that the case belongs in state court where the ACLU originally filed it.

 

The employee in this case is Joseph Casias, a 2008 Associate of the Year at a Walmart in Battle Creek who used marijuana to treat pain associated with an inoperable brain tumor and cancer. Casias was fired from his job after testing positive for marijuana in 2009, which led to the ACLU’s lawsuit.

 

The ACLU argued that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, passed by voters in 2008, protects medical marijuana patients from “disciplinary action by a business.” Moreover, Casias never ingested marijuana while at work, and never worked while under the influence of marijuana, the group argued.

 

“The lower court’s ruling failed to uphold the will of Michigan voters, who clearly wanted to protect medical marijuana and facilitate its use by very sick people like Joseph Casias,” Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, said in a statement. “No one should ever have to choose between adequate pain relief and gainful employment, but Walmart forced Joseph to pay a stiff and unfair price for using a medicine that has had a life-changing positive effect for him.”

 

WalMart defended its decision to fire Casias.

 

“This is just an unfortunate situation all around, and we’re sympathetic to Mr. Casias’s condition,” said WalMart spokesman Greg Rossiter, noting that the decision to fire Casias was a safety issue. “Walmart has to consider the overall safety of our customers and our associates, including Mr. Casias. When we have to make a difficult decision like the one we did, ultimately the issue for us is the ability of our associates to do their jobs safely.”

 

Rossiter said said that while many states do have laws that make medical marijuana legal, the laws offer no guidance to employers on how to deal with employees who test positive for drugs. So when an employee tests positive for marijuana, he said, Walmart defers to federal law, which still does not treat marijuana as a legal drug.

 

“We’re always going to default to what we believe is the safest environment for our associates and customers,” Rossiter said

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There are three key questions to be answered in this case.

 

1. Recently the Feds went to court to adjust the attitude of AZ- a state that took it upon itself to enforce federal immigration law. An injunction was obtained preventing them from doing so as there were available federal authorities who are charged with enforcing federal law. The same goes for MMJ. There are available federal authorities (the DEA) to enforce federal law. In this case, they are specifically not dealing with compassionate care use of a Schedule 1 narcotic by medical patients when allowed and in accordance of state law. Walmart is NOT charged with enforcing federal law, neither are every little governmental unit or medical practice that tries to cite federal law as reason to ignore the MMMA. This could and should be clarified by the federal courts.

 

2. While there is no provision in the act to prevent a private company from firing a mmj patient, they must prove use AND impairment according to the law. Making this point clear in the federal court will have widespread effect, from employment law to traffic stops. The key point in this case is not if Joe used MMJ, but how Walmart proved he was IMPAIRED...

 

3. Do interstate companies have to abide by local state law at each location in addition to federal law overall? This could have some interesting implications. If Walmart, an interstate company, does NOT have to obey the law of Michigan, I bet they can safely ignore paying state taxes to Michigan too. If they have to obey the local tax laws, where does their need to obey local law stop?

 

On the second point, I bet we could come up with a decent study- Lets get some folks together, group them by light, moderate, heavy users of MMJ. Hold the med until their THC was zero. Let them take a coordination test, then give them a joint and have them repeat the test hourly, draw their blood every two hours for a level. Let's see if there is a blood level that impairs them, and one where they can operate as well as baseline. See what kind of clearance occurs (??? how many hours must elapse before a second blood test shows half the level of the first???). What were Joe's levels? Were they just carboxy, etc?

 

Dr. Bob

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There are three key questions to be answered in this case.

 

1. Recently the Feds went to court to adjust the attitude of AZ- a state that took it upon itself to enforce federal immigration law. An injunction was obtained preventing them from doing so as there were available federal authorities who are charged with enforcing federal law. The same goes for MMJ. There are available federal authorities (the DEA) to enforce federal law. In this case, they are specifically not dealing with compassionate care use of a Schedule 1 narcotic by medical patients when allowed and in accordance of state law. Walmart is NOT charged with enforcing federal law, neither are every little governmental unit or medical practice that tries to cite federal law as reason to ignore the MMMA. This could and should be clarified by the federal courts.

 

2. While there is no provision in the act to prevent a private company from firing a mmj patient, they must prove use AND impairment according to the law. Making this point clear in the federal court will have widespread effect, from employment law to traffic stops. The key point in this case is not if Joe used MMJ, but how Walmart proved he was IMPAIRED...

 

3. Do interstate companies have to abide by local state law at each location in addition to federal law overall? This could have some interesting implications. If Walmart, an interstate company, does NOT have to obey the law of Michigan, I bet they can safely ignore paying state taxes to Michigan too. If they have to obey the local tax laws, where does their need to obey local law stop?

 

On the second point, I bet we could come up with a decent study- Lets get some folks together, group them by light, moderate, heavy users of MMJ. Hold the med until their THC was zero. Let them take a coordination test, then give them a joint and have them repeat the test hourly, draw their blood every two hours for a level. Let's see if there is a blood level that impairs them, and one where they can operate as well as baseline. See what kind of clearance occurs (??? how many hours must elapse before a second blood test shows half the level of the first???). What were Joe's levels? Were they just carboxy, etc?

 

Dr. Bob

 

Very good points. :goodjob:

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