Court: Marijuana’s Schedule I Status Does Not Justify Workplace Discrimination Against State-Qualified Patients

Hartford, CT: A federal district court judge has determined that marijuana’s illicit status under federal law does not preempt statewide protections explicitly prohibiting qualified medical cannabis patients from facing discrimination in the workplace.

The defendant in the case, Bride Brook Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, argued that marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug under the US Controlled Substances Act provided a legal basis for its decision to rescind a job offer to a would-be employee after she failed a drug screen. United States District Court Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer disagreed.

He wrote: “This lawsuit calls upon me to decide if federal law preempts Connecticut law. In particular, I must decide if federal law precludes enforcement of a Connecticut law that prohibits employers from firing or refusing to hire someone who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes. I conclude that the answer to that question is ‘no’ and that a plaintiff who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes in compliance with Connecticut law may maintain a cause of action against an employer who refuses to employ her for this reason.”

The ruling follows that of a similar decision in Massachusetts in July which determined that state-registered medical cannabis patients may sue a private employer for discrimination if they are fired for their off-the-job marijuana use.

The case is Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Company, LLC.

For more information, contact Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500.