Drug Law

Court: Okay to Fire Medical Marijuana User

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A customer-service firm was allowed to fire an employee who used medical marijuana legally, the Washington Supreme Court ruled. 

A woman who used the pseudonym Jane Roe claimed TeleTech Customer Care, a customer-service firm for Sprint in Bremerton, Wash., pulled her out of training after she failed a pre-employment drug test in 2006. She sued the company in Kitsap County in 2007.

Roe had a valid marijuana prescription to treat her migraines, but TeleTech said its contract with Sprint did not make an exception for medical marijuana. 

The Kitsap County judge found for TeleTech, holding that Washington's Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MUMA) "provides only an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution under state drug laws and does not imply a civil cause of action."

On appealed, the state Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, rejecting Roe's argument that MUMA implicitly requires an employer to accommodate medical marijuana use outside the workplace.

"The language of MUMA is unambiguous- it does not regulate the conduct of a private employer or protect an employee from being discharged because of authorized medical marijuana use," Justice Charlie Wiggins wrote for the court.

Wiggins noted that the voter material for the 1998 medical marijuana initiative "was silent as to any employment protections possibly granted."

"If proponents of [the initiative] wanted voters to approve language that would enact employment protections, they should have clearly explained to voters the consequences of the initiative," Wiggins wrote.

The court also found that there was no public policy basis for employment protection of medical marijuana use. 

"Roe has presented only one public policy argument to support her wrongful termination claim - that MUMA broadly protects a patient's 'personal, individual decision' to use medical marijuana," Wiggins wrote. "MUMA does not proclaim a public policy that would remove any impediment (including employer drug policies) to the decision to use medical marijuana."