fired marijuana job
Medical Marijuana Policy

ACLU Files Medical Marijuana Employment Lawsuit In Rhode Island

fired marijuana jobI have never been fired from a job before, but I’d imagine it sucks very badly. I have quit jobs in the past, but I’ve never been terminated. If I was terminated for being a horrible employee, then I think I would be more accepting. But if I was fired for something that was unfair, I would be very upset about it. For instance, if I was fired for using a medicine that is legal in the state that I worked in, I would be extremely upset.

Sadly, that’s becoming the case more and more for medical marijuana patients. I have heard of dozens of stories of people being fired for consuming medical marijuana outside of work, which is obviously unfair. The latest case I’ve heard of is in Rhode Island, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2006. But this case is different, in that it doesn’t name a specific employee. The ACLU of Rhode Island has filed a lawsuit challenging the fact that an employee can be fired for consuming legal medical marijuana outside of work hours. There have been similar challenges in the past, none of which have been favorable. Per International Business Times:

The ACLU’s effort in Rhode Island isn’t the first time a company has been sued for allegedly treating medical marijuana patients unfavorably. In 2010, Brandon Coats of Englewood, Colorado, filed a lawsuit against Dish Network, claiming he was wrongfully terminated after he tested positive for marijuana in a company drug test. Coats, who worked as a telephone operator, was a paraplegic who used pot to ease muscle spasms — a condition that he said would have prevented him from working in the first place. An appellate court sided with the employer in 2013, saying companies in the state could lawfully fire workers for failing drug tests.

Then there was the case of Walmart employee Joseph Casias of Michigan who, in 2009, was fired for testing positive for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana). Casias used marijuana to alleviate symptoms of his sinus cancer, Fortune reported. A court upheld his firing, despite medical marijuana being legal in Michigan.

I get asked all the time, ‘can I be fired for consuming medical marijuana?’ So far case law says that the answer is a clear ‘yes.’ I don’t like it, and wish it wasn’t that way, but I also don’t want to lie to people when their job and well being is on the line. With more and more states legalizing medical marijuana, and recreational marijuana for that matter, this is going to be a reoccurring issue. My day job frowns upon marijuana consumption of any kind, regardless of the fact that medical marijuana has been legal in Oregon since 1998, and recreational marijuana will be legal in less than two months. I can still be fired, and live in fear of that happening everyday of my life, which is no way for anyone to live.

  • Duncan20903

    The Brandon Coats lawsuit is specific to Colorado which has a law that prevents Colorado employers from firing people for engaging in “lawful” acts when off duty. The controversy is whether or not Mr. Coats was fired for doing something not “lawful” because of Federal law making it not “lawful.” I don’t have much hope because there are a lot of State laws where people are excluded for having a Federal criminal record. E.g. a CPA convicted of filing fraudulent income tax returns for people engaged in the evasion of Federal income tax in Nevada isn’t going to find a State that’s going to overlook that fact and license him as a CPA after his release from Federal custody. I picked Alaska for this example because it has no State income tax and like all the other States does not criminalize the evasion of Federal income tax.

    Where Dish Network went stupid is that Colorado is a so called “right to work” State which means that if they wanted they could have picked an employee at random and legally fired him just because the supervisor felt like firing someone. Quite frankly it was such an incredible gaffe on the part of the company that it makes me think that it’s possible that the guy filling out the paperwork could well have thought that the whole thing sucked and was trying to throw Mr. Coats a life line. I certainly hope that the Colorado Supreme Court overturns but I don’t have much hope that they will.

    • Kathleen Chippi

      “Quite frankly it was such an incredible gaffe on the part of the company that it makes me think that it’s possible that the guy filling out the paperwork could well have thought that the whole thing sucked and was trying to throw Mr. Coats a life line.”

      ??? gaffe, lifeline? Credit for trying to speak as if you know whats going on Duncan……you know my brief for the Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project is the lifeline that could overturn this ruling. I hope it’s not too upsetting for you. And the question before the court is not specific to CO, the state statute Coats is using to try to get his job back is. He is arguing our “unique state statute” that says one cannot be fired for what they do away from work ‘exempts’ the court from having to consider “lawful” under the state constitution or federal law. The question of what the word “lawful” means when it comes to medical cannabis is not specific to Colorado and will set national precedent.

      Mr. Evans brief for Coats concedes that: A20 did NOT “legalize” medical cannabis in CO in 2000, that his client, Mr. Coats, had no “right” to medical cannabis and that federal law trumps state law anyway–without ANY high court in the nation hearing a proper and full Preemption Doctrine analysis on what “lawful” means. Mike
      Evans threw A20, CO patients, caregivers and doctors under the bus and there is no chance his arguments will benefit most Coloradans because he sure seems to agree with Dish Network and the Appeals Court ruling on the
      illegality of cannabis at BOTH state and federal levels….

      Instead he asks for a ruling extremely limited in scope to “affect only people like Mr. Coats” (which we can only guess to mean (as he did not explain) quadriplegics (who have no MMJ “rights, as he conceded) with phone jobs who use (still illegal, as he conceded) medical cannabis away from work. He also said he would be happy if the Supreme Court threw the case back to the Appeals Court to give it another go to get Mr. Coats his job back at Dish in the lower court.

      Yes, without the PCRLP amicus on behalf of all voters/patients and Kimberly Ryans amicus on behalf of all employee’s, “we the people” would have no hope.

      • Duncan20903

        Whatever you say Ms. Chippi. But just like the prohibitionists above, you can’t insist fiction into becoming fact.

        • Kathleen Chippi

          “you can’t insist fiction into becoming fact”

          likewise, Duncan.

    • “Where Dish Network went stupid is that Colorado is a so called “right to work” State which means that if they wanted they could have picked an employee at random and legally fired him just because the supervisor felt like firing someone.”

      You’ve conflated the legal concepts —

      1) Colorado has an “at will” employment law, which is what allows employers to fire anyone for any reason or no reason anytime they want — barring the enumerated protected classes of Race, Religion, Sex, etc.

      2) “Right to Work” is the Union Busting legislation, and Colorado is not one of those states.

      hth.

      • andrew

        Colorado is a right to work state.