Despite the fact that medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, private businesses have the right to fire people who use it, said a federal judge who dismissed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
U.D. District Judge Robert Jonker said that while patients who are authorized to use medical marijuana in Michigan are protected from prosecution, private employers are another subject.
30-year-old Joseph Casias, an authorized medical marijuana user in Michigan, smokes pot to help alleviate the symptoms of cancer and an inoperable brain tumor. Until he tested positive for the drug in 2009, he was also an inventory control manager at a Wal-Mart store in Battle Creek, MI, which is about fifty miles south of Lansing.
Jonker explained Casias’s theory of the case as meaning that, “…no private employer in Michigan could take any action against an employee based on an employee’s use of medical marijuana.” He continued, “This would create a new protected employee class in Michigan and mark a radical departure from the general rule of at-will employment.”
Casias is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said an appeal was imminent.
ACLU attorney Scott Michelman said, “A choice between adequate pain relief and gainful employment is an untenable one that no patient should ever be forced to make.”
Wal-Mart said that while it was sympathetic to Casias’s medical situation, it was also pleased with Judge Jonker’s decision. Company spokesperson Greg Rossiter said, “We have to consider the overall safety of our customers and associates, including Mr. Casias. Until further guidance is available, we’ll always default to what we believe is the safest environment.”
Mr. Casias declined to comment on the matter. According to Will Matthews, a spokesperson for the ACLU, Casias was associate of the year at his branch of Wal-Mart in 2010. Currently, he is still unemployed.