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Arizona: Medical Cannabis Patient's Firing Violated State Law, Federal Judge Rules

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Arizona: Medical Cannabis

Phoenix, AZ: A private employer acted improperly when it fired a state-registered medical cannabis patient for failing a urinalysis drug screen, a federal judge ruled last week.

United States District Judge James A. Teilborg opined that Walmart violated Arizona law by terminating an employee solely for testing positive for the presence of THC metabolites in her urine. The carboxy-THC metabolite is an inert breakdown product of THC which may remain present in urine for weeks or even months following cannabis exposure.

Under Arizona's voter-initiated medical cannabis access law, an employer may not discriminate in hiring or firing based solely upon a patient's "positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites, unless the patient used, possessed or was impaired by marijuana on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment."

According to the US Department of Justice, urinalysis tests "detect drug use but not drug impairment. A positive test result ... does not indicate abuse or addiction, recency, frequency, or amount of use, or impairment."

In recent years, judges have similarly upheld patient protections in other jurisdictions, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

The case is Whitmire v. Walmart Stores Incorporated.

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