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In Washington, Even Medical Marijuana Users May Be Fired for Failing a Drug Test

Since 1998, the Washington State Medical Use of Marijuana Act has provided an affirmative defense against criminal prosecution of physicians for prescribing medical marijuana and of qualified patients for their medical use of marijuana. A woman under the pseudonym of Jane Roe who suffered from debilitating migraine headaches received authorization from a Washington doctor to use medical marijuana, and upon receiving this authorization Roe began using medical marijuana in compliance with MUMA.

In 2006, a company called TeleTech offered Roe a job as a customer service representative, contingent on, among other things, her passing a drug test. Roe informed TeleTech of her use of medical marijuana and offered to provide the company with a copy of her authorization. TeleTech declined. Roe took the drug test and started training at TeleTech while the results were pending ... and I think you can see where this is going.

Not surprisingly, Roe failed the drug test. Perhaps more surprisingly, TeleTech promptly terminated her fledgling employment, telling her that the company's drug policy did not make an exception for medical
marijuana. Roe then filed Roe v. TeleTech, arguing that (a) MUMA provides a private cause of action against an employer who discharges an employee for authorized medical marijuana use, and (b) under the "public policy" of MUMA, employees may not be discharged for authorized medical marijuana use.

Roe lost at the trial level and in her initial appeal, and on Thursday the Supreme Court of Washington affirmed the courts below. The court held that MUMA "does not regulate the conduct of a private employer or protect an employee from being discharged because of authorized medical marijuana use." It further held that MUMA "does not proclaim a sufficient public policy to give rise to a tort action for wrongful termination for authorized use of medical marijuana."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Tom Chambers wrote that

Allowing someone to be fired from their job for using the treatment allowed by law when sanctioned by a doctor jeopardizes the clear policy of the act. It will discourage other people in her position from availing themselves of a treatment the voters decided should be available.


Posted by Bruce Carton on June 10, 2011 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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