February 13, 2013

Denied a job, medical pot user sues Maine employer

In a lawsuit that's believed to be the first of its kind in Maine, the case illustrates a legal conflict that has arisen in states where marijuana is legal while federal laws prohibit its use.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Related Documents

PDF: Medical Marijuana Lawsuit

Maine voters passed a limited medical marijuana law in 1999, then expanded it significantly in 2009. Mainers with qualified medical conditions now can grow their own marijuana, buy it from one of eight nonprofit dispensaries or buy from a certified caregiver.

"Adecco is ignoring the will of the people of Maine, who overwhelmingly approved the use of marijuana for serious medical conditions," McKee said. "No employer should be permitted to flout state laws protecting the right of patients to access the medicine they need."

Heiden said there is limited legal precedent for such a case, at least in Maine, and that is one reason the ACLU has gotten involved. The issue has come up in many of the other 17 states where at least some use of medical marijuana is legal.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Michigan ruled in October that a private employer may terminate someone's employment for failing a drug test without violating that state's medical marijuana law. That decision came after a man sued his employer, Wal-Mart, after failing a drug test.

In December, a woman in New Mexico sued her employer claiming that she was fired for participating in her state's medical marijuana program. And a Denver man who was fired in 2010 from his job as a telephone operator sued his employer after failing a drug test because of medical marijuana.

Both of those cases are pending.

Arizona passed a law in 2011 that says an employer may not base any employment decision on a person's status as a card holder or a registered qualifying patient or user of marijuana under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

However, that law shields some employers from liability if they fire employees who are under the influence of marijuana while on the job.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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