Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Patients’ Afforded Workplace Protections, High Court Rules

marijuana_gavelState-registered medical cannabis patients may sue a private employer for discrimination if they are fired for their off-the-job marijuana use, according to a first in the nation ruling issued today by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Opining for the court, Chief Justice Ralph Gants determined that it is “not facially unreasonable” for employers to make exceptions to their substance abuse policies in instances where employees are using cannabis at home to treat a debilitating condition. “The fact that the employee’s possession of medical marijuana is in violation of federal law does not make it per se unreasonable as an accommodation,” he wrote.

The defendant in the case was fired on her first day on the job for testing positive for carboxy-THC on a company drug test. The former employee possessed a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis to treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Qualified patients may legally obtain cannabis in Massachusetts under a 2012 voter-initiated law.

The unanimous verdict reverses a lower court decision and is contrary to rulings in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. In each of those states, the supreme courts ruled that employees had no legal protections if they were fired without cause for their state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.

“Patients should never have to choose between their heath and their job and for the first time, a court has acknowledged that they shouldn’t have to do so,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions begin to apply this same rationale to patients as well as to all adults who are using cannabis responsibly off-the-job in compliance with the laws of their states.”

The case is Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing LLC.

9 thoughts

  1. So what would this mean for large say Walgreens? I had a recommendation from California and Arizona, then failed a random drug test that came through the store I was a Pharmacy Manager at. Needless to say the last year I have had to call a phone number every day to see if I have a random drug test and attend 2 AA/NA meetings a week to keep my job. After the first year I will have 4 more years of randoms that I will need to go through but I won’t have to make the call, the company will call me out of the blue to test. So will this change a large employers’ policy that prohibits marijuana?

  2. Corporations are not people.

    But if corporations were people, they would be major fucking assholes.

    If you live in the bible-belt part of the country, you may have heard the expression “God, Family, Job.” It represents a prioritization of values. You don’t have to be religious to understand the ordering of ethical principles: in ethical terms, what do you owe, and to whom?

    Many folks might agree, saying it would be wrong to sacrifice your family for your job, just as it would be wrong to sacrifice your own morality for your family.

    This puts “Job” third. I think that’s being too generous. We don’t owe corporations a goddamn thing!

    A corporation is not a moral authority, nor is it a legal authority. Corporations are anti-democratic, fascist parasites. They serve no agenda other than their own financial profit and political power, at the expense of all else.

    Corporations have no right to invade your body and your privacy with drug testing. If an actual person forced you to do that, it would be among the sickest of perverted crimes of violence.

    If corporations were people, they would be judged as psychopathic criminals, and given the death penalty.

      1. @ TheOracle,
        Damn straight!
        “Joe Camel, you are a freak of nature, and an animal. For your crimes against humanity, you are hereby sentenced to death. Warden, light him up!”

  3. Thank you to the judges! Finally, some people in criminal justice are waking up and smelling the coffee. After legalization, employees’ health will come before the employers’ blind faith to enforce blanket cannabis prohibition for the feds. Just as some employers test for nicotine, there will still be employers who will test and fire employees, I surmise mostly for recreational use in light of this ruling.

    Cannabis prohibition is only a failure trajectory. Even states like Pennsylvania that have shitty no-smoking-the-bud medical marijuana laws because the caved in to the law enforcement prohibitionists are still reaping the repercussions of still not legalizing.

    Cosmo DiNardo and his cousin murdered four guys in a rip deal for real marijuana because the guys wanted pot worth $8,000 but wanted to pay only $800. See the article:

  4. The cured female flowers are still illegal for medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania, and adult recreational is paralyzed by the Republican-controlled legislature. So you’ve still got the violence of rip deals, as well as the synthetic marijuana problems. The Lancaster (Pennsylvania) newspaper print edition for July 18 has an article about how the local EMS teams have treated 160 synthetic marijuana calls in the past 10 days. In the print version, not the online version, there is a filler quoting an unnamed DEA agent who claims synthetic marijuana is synthetic THC that is sprayed on tobacco. Correctly stated, the chemicals sprayed on are man-made and their effects are supposed to mimic those of marijuana, yet not make you show up positive for real marijuana on a drug test. I seriously doubt if real synthetic THC is what street suppliers are spraying on herbs and tobacco and shit.

    Legalizing adult recreational drastically reduces if not eliminates rip deals and the need folks need to use synthetic marijuana so that they can get a job and/or keep their jobs so they don’t get pegged on a piss test.

    So the newspaper prints this shit from the DEA agent that it’s synthetic THC sprayed on, like THC is the pernicious chemical, and it fuels the continuing reefer madness to keep scaring people into supporting cannabis prohibition. They need a piece that corrects this kind of shoddy journalism, but I don’t expect it in the most Republican county in the state.

  5. Fascinating yet dangerous times we live in. As predicted, the Drumph administration’s policy to freeze government operations by not hiring new Federal judges backfires on itself again.
    However, something else is pushing judges to rule in favor of the states; non-voter-initiated state medical marijuana reform legislation. But how does that explain Mass.? Here, the judges ruled on voter initiated marijuana law to defy federal law. Were the archaic changes the Mass. legislature made to delay recreational marijuana counted as judicial precident in this Barbuto case? According to Gant’s ruling, the answer is he was respecting the voter initiated law legalizing medical marijuana “against all punishments.” What is more remarkable about this case is Judge Gant even awarded damage$ for “handicap discrimination.” Marijuana is finally being given proper judicial review in defense of the infirmed and disabled. Now companies have to weigh awards and damages from complying with federal drug testing laws and inventive$ v. potential civil suit$ that could cost million$.
    Workplace drug testing is in a tight spot. Either bite into the federal subsidies from insurance that wants us all in predatory rehab for a beneficial herb that competes with synthetically patented profits or relax drug testing in a growing population of marijuana consumers where even the FBI and Secret Service cant sustain employment if they dont stop denying applications based on prior marijuana consumption and records of possession. This President and Congress and all the King’s horseman can no longer defend themselves from green, leafly political bullets. Fairly taxed and regulated whole plant marijuana is at the root of our health care debate.

  6. This threat of drug testing terror has doubtless been the major factor in statistics showing an absence of increases of cannabis use in jurisdictions where legalization occurred.

  7. While I don’t know how this would actually play out in court were someone to take legal action against their employer, this is awesome news. There’s no reason one’s usage of medicine for what ails them should have any bearing on their employment unless they are simply unfit to work in that capacity. It’s nice to see Massachusetts once again making some headway in New England.

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