Friday, July 9, 2010

Suit Against Wal-Mart Highlights Medical Marijuana Patient Discrimination

Last week, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart which could have significant implications for thousands of seriously ill Americans across the country who legally use medical marijuana under state law, but still face employer discrimination because of the continued stigma attached to the medicine that brings them relief. 

Joseph Casias, a 30-year-old married father of two, was wrongfully fired from his job at a Wal-Mart store in Battle Creek, Michigan after he tested positive for marijuana following a drug screening. Casias is a legal, registered medical marijuana patient in Michigan. He takes marijuana on the recommendation of his oncologist to help relieve the effects of sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor that was the size of a softball when diagnosed. 

This treatment became a legal option for Casias in 2008, after Michigan voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), which provides protection for the medical use of the drug under state law. In accordance with the law, Casias never used marijuana while on the job, nor did he ever work under the influence of marijuana. In fact, during his time at Wal-Mart, Casias was able to rise from an entry-level stocking position to a managerial role, and along the way, he was named the store's 2008 Associate of the Year. 

In late 2009, Joseph twisted his knee at work. He was given a drug test after being sent to the doctor's office and, predictably, failed that test due to his lawful use of medical marijuana. Wal-Mart then fired him because he failed the test, despite the company's knowledge that he was lawfully using marijuana for pain treatment and not under the influence of the drug while at work. 

The ACLU's lawsuit charges that Wal-Mart wrongfully terminated Joseph in violation of the protections of the MMMA. The Casias case will have great significance not only for Joseph's own life and livelihood but also for thousands of patients around the country in the 14 states and the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal. 

Medical marijuana patients already face enough of a challenge trying to treat what are often life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. They shouldn't have to worry about their jobs, as well. 


Let Wal-Mart know what you think

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