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Washington State Court Allows Firing for Legal Use of Medical Marijuana


Employees in Washington state can be fired if they fail a drug test, even if they have a medical-marijuana authorization from a physician, the state’s Supreme Court has ruled.

The case involved a woman who failed a pre-employment drug test for a firm that handles customer service for Sprint. The woman, who had a valid medical-marijuana authorization from a doctor, sued. The Seattle Times reports that the company said its contract with Sprint mandated drug testing and did not make any exceptions for medical marijuana.

In a 8-1 vote, the court ruled that state law allows employers to prohibit medical marijuana use on the job, but does not address its use outside of work. The majority opinion said that because medical marijuana use is illegal under federal law, the state’s Human Rights Commission, which looks into cases of employee discrimination, cannot pursue claims related to medical-marijuana use.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Tom Chambers wrote that when Washington state voters passed a medical-marijuana law in 1998, their intent was to protect patients prescribed marijuana for medical purposes. He added that the court’s decision will discourage people from seeking legal medical-marijuana treatment out of concern they could lose their jobs.

7 Responses to this article

  1. maxwood / June 15, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    I am sorry to criticize the good hosting institution, but it may be regretted that in haste to find any picture that will do to head the article, JT had to offer a bulging cannister of unsifted bud, which if rolled into a joint and smoked hot, confers heat shock, extra cabon monoxide and combustion poisons producing health and behavior problems promptly blamed on the cannabis by prohibitors. There is “cannabis” and cannabis, depending on method of administration; in the case narrated above we don’t know what method of “smoking” (as opposed to a vaporizer or a petite one-hitter) was used by the incompetent who mishandled the gas connection.

  2. Gene / June 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    The installer could be as much impaired if he used the legally prescribed anti psychotic drugs. The bottom line is: s/he shouldn’t perform such type of work, while on medications.

  3. Avatar of Ohiopreventionist
    Ohiopreventionist / June 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    A point that often gets forgotten is that there is NO “legal medical-marijuana treatment”. Marijuana use is against federal law and individual states do not have the authority to over-ride it.

    Lets work toward studying the effects/benefits of marijuana use more thoroughly instead of continuing to pass patchwork legislation.

  4. Avatar of Melanie
    Melanie / June 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    I had a gas cooktop installed by someone who held a medical marijuana card. The gas leaked for two months with the gas company turning off the gas each time I called to report a gas smell. Each time the same installer came out and complained that the gas company didn’t know what it was talking about. Fortunately the season allowed for air ventilation. My gas bill was unusually high. The appliance company stood behind their installer. Finally I contacted the appliance company and their rep came out. The “impaired” installer had stripped the connector between the gas cooktop and the gas source. I think it is important that we not minimize the effect of chronic marijuana use on some individual and problem solving and give careful consideration to employment opportunities for those individuals. I don’t want them driving trucks on the road or trains or in this case, installing gas appliances. I am fortunate I persisted otherwise I could have been in the clouds by now.

  5. Brinna Nanda / June 13, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    And I had to fire a tile setter who was a jerk. Extrapolating that everyone who holds a medical marijuana card is “impaired” is idiotic, but unfortunately, that is the position taken by those who simply cannot get it into their heads that cannabis is a legitimate medicine. We would never think of firing someone because they were given a prescription for Lyrica, let’s say. Remember, we are not talking about firing an employee because of a bad work ethic, or because they are always late, or because they “strip a connection”, we are talking about firing them because they choose a medicine other than the federally sanctioned variety.

  6. joebanana / June 13, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    And you know this, how? Do you screen your appliance installers? Or did he just come out and tell you he was stoned and had a MM card. That’s not something that normally comes up during a service call. And how do you know this guy wasn’t incompetent in the first place?

  7. Ken Wolski, RN / June 18, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    The U.S. Supreme Court has already acknowledged (in the Garden Grove decision) that states have the right to determine the proper practice of medicine within each state. In the Garden Grove case the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court’s decision that said: “Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act to combat recreational drug abuse and curb drug trafficking. Its goal was not to regulate the practice of medicine, a task that falls within the traditional powers of the states.”

    The federal government has been systematically and consistently blocking research into the medicinal benefits of marijuana for over 40 years. It takes a lot of nerve to say that more studies should be done when you know quite well that the feds will not allow these studies to be done. Nevertheless, even without FDA approval, there is sufficient scientific evidence of marijuana’s safety and efficiacy for a wide range of diseases, symptoms and conditions. That’s what these compassionate use programs are all about in the states–compassionate access to marijuana with a physician’s recommendation, prior to FDA approval.

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