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Can my employer fire me for using medical marijuana?

Marijuana, medical and otherwise, is causing a pattern of indecision among employers. Historically, most employers require a drug test before hiring candidates. Some also do spot tests during employment or following a safety incident. But as the number of medical marijuana card carriers increases, Michigan employers face whether to remain zero-tolerance or create progressive rules for drug policies.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act “does not place any limits or restrictions on workplace drug testing, regardless of whether an employee may lawfully use medical marijuana.” Termination could unfortunately be in your future if you fail a drug test. Even if you carry a marijuana card, you may have violated your employer’s drug policy.

The marijuana act does not protect employees of private employment against termination, as it only offers a possible defense against criminal action taken by the state. Even though an employer did not violate Michigan’s marijuana act by firing an employee for using cannabis, they may still be subject to a discrimination claim.

Casias v. Wal-Mart

Controversy struck when Joseph Casias was fired from Wal-Mart in 2009 for failing his drug test. The employer was sued for firing Casias, who had a prescription for medical marijuana to help with his sinus and brain cancer. The U.S. District Court judge and the Sixth Circuit Courts of Appeals both sided with the employer and upheld the termination.

As an “at-will” employment state, Michigan allows companies to fire people for any reason without a “just cause” claim. A case in 2014 seemed to challenge Casias’ case. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that three people fired for using medical marijuana could not be denied unemployment benefits. The court didn’t say that the actual firings were unfair.

It seems strange to have a medical marijuana law in place but allow termination for using cannabis. Michigan is not the only state where this is an issue. Many states do not have protections in place for those carrying a medical marijuana card.

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