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Judge Upholds Employment Termination for Medical Marijuana Use

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Amanda K. Garcia-Williams
Foster Swift Employment, Labor & Benefits E-News
February 24, 2011

A federal judge ruled on February 11, 2011, that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) does not preclude private employers from terminating employees for use of the drug.  Federal Judge Robert Jonker dismissed a former employee's lawsuit against Wal-Mart after he was terminated for testing positive for marijuana.  The employee claimed his termination violated the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) because he had a medical marijuana registry card and claimed he used marijuana for medical purposes only after working hours.  Judge Jonker concluded that the language of the MMMA seeks to protect medical marijuana users from state action only (i.e. arrest and criminal prosecution.)  The judge ruled that no part of the MMMA is meant to address private employment decisions or discipline.  By ruling that the MMMA does not reach private employment, the Court has resolved, at least for now, the question of whether employers must treat employees using medical marijuana differently than employees testing positive for all other marijuana use.

The ACLU, which is representing the former employee, has said that it will appeal.  So, until final disposition of this matter, and considering the complex nature of this issue, employers are encouraged to consult an employment attorney prior to any termination regarding medical marijuana use.