Man using marijuana for medical relief sues Walmart over firing
New York City A man who uses medical marijuana to treat symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor and cancer claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday he was wrongfully fired from a Walmart store in Michigan after testing positive for the drug, the Associated Press reported.
Joseph Casias, 30, was fired last year after five years on the job in Battle Creek, Mich. He was legally registered with the state to use the drug, according to the lawsuit. Michigan voters approved medical marijuana use in 2008.
Casias said he didn't use marijuana at work or come to work under the influence. Scott Michelman, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the lawsuit aims to test the extent that Michigan's law protects employees.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores said in a statement that it is an "unfortunate situation all around." It said it is sympathetic to Casias' condition but said it is an issue of customer and employee safety.
"The issue is about the ability of our associates to do their jobs safely," the company said. "As more states allow this treatment, employers are left without any guidelines except the federal standard."
Fourteen states provide protections for patients who use marijuana as recommended by a doctor. While still illegal under federal law, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last year the Obama administration would relax prosecution guidelines. Some state courts, however, haven't upheld employee protections.
In April, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that an employer is not required to accommodate the use of medical marijuana, saying state law is trumped by federal law, the report said. And in recent years, state supreme courts in Montana and California have ruled that medical marijuana laws don't protect employees from being fired for using the drug.
The ACLU argues, however, said Michigan's law more explicitly protects employees from being disciplined for legally using medical marijuana. It said that includes Casias' case, but not those who use the drug at work, for example.