I read an interesting article in the newspaper the other day. A Connecticut city firefighter was terminated after testing positive for marijuana. On its face, that may not seem all that unusual. What separates this case from others is the fact that this firefighter was legally prescribed medical marijuana for the treatment of certain medical conditions. In the end, that did not matter to the city. The city’s position was that, in policy, it followed federal law, and marijuana is still illegal. Any use is a violation of its policies and grounds for discipline.
Marijuana is classed as Schedule I controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. That means the feds looks at marijuana the same as heroin, cocaine, and other illicit drugs: there is no acceptable medical use for the substance, and there is a significant potential for abuse. As with many topics today, this is a highly charged political debate. There are some that feel marijuana has no place in society and has no legitimate medical use. There are others that feel it should be regulated and taxed, much like alcohol. And then there are some that feel marijuana should be widely accessible to the public with little to no regulation. With that said, Connecticut has legalized marijuana for medical use when prescribed by a health care professional.
Getting back to the firefighter. After his termination, the firefighter filed a lawsuit in Federal Court claiming he was discriminated against because he was using marijuana for medical purposes under the care of the licensed medical professional. The suit was dismissed by the Court with the Judge finding that marijuana was still illegal under federal law, thus cannot be a basis for discrimination.
The part I found interesting was that the Federal Judge suggested the case be refiled in State Court. Reason being, Connecticut has protections built into its palliative marijuana law protecting employees from discrimination based on medical marijuana use. Now, this is not a total guarantee that you cannot be fired if you have a prescription from a doctor; in fact, the law makes it very clear that an employee cannot use marijuana while at work and cannot be under the influence while at work.
If you are a medical marijuana user and have been terminated or disciplined at work, there may be some protections available to you. Furthermore, the underlying condition that you are using marijuana to treat may be a basis in itself for a discrimination claim. If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly at work because of your disabilities or the use of medical marijuana, please give us a call. We would be happy to talk through the issues and discuss your options.