Massachusetts Medical Cannabis Patients’ Jobs Protected

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court cannabis ruling
Image: Public Domain

Some medical cannabis patients in the U.S. state of Massachusetts are breathing a little easier after a court case confirmed they couldn’t be dismissed from their jobs in some circumstances because of their medication use.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on a case early this week, stating a patient using medical cannabis who was fired because of it could claim handicap discrimination.

The woman, who suffers from Crohn’s Disease, was already using medical cannabis to treat the condition when she started work with the company involved. The medication wasn’t consumed on-site, but at her home usually on two to three evenings a week, and never immediately prior to work.

When she was requested to submit for a mandatory drug test by the company as part of her employment conditions, she informed her supervisor of her medical cannabis use and was told that it shouldn’t be a problem.

After the test proved positive for marijuana, she was dismissed from her position; with the employer providing a stated belief it was following federal law. U.S federal law views cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance; illegal regardless of how it’s used and even if prescribed.

However, it seems Massachusetts state laws permitting medical cannabis use trumped federal legislation in this case.

While previous claims by the woman had been dismissed by other courts, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated:

“Our conclusion finds support in the marijuana act itself, which declares that patients shall not be denied “any right or privilege” on the basis of their medical marijuana use.”

The Court did issue some caveats, including where medical cannabis use posed a threat to safety in the workplace – which in this case, it did not.

A more in depth discussion of the history of the case and the Court’s decision can be viewed here, and the full text of the decision here (PDF).

Massachusetts voters supported an act for the humanitarian medical use of marijuana back in 2012. The Act states:

“that there should be no punishment under state law for qualifying patients .. for the medical use of marijuana.”

The decision will put other Massachusetts’ employers on notice that they can’t fire an employee simply because they are a medical cannabis user, and the case may have implications in other states that have similar legislation.