Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Patients Afforded Workplace Protections

MASSACHUSETTS: State-registered medical cannabis patients may sue a private employer for discrimination if they are fired for their off-the-job marijuana use, according to a first in the nation ruling issued Monday by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Opining for the court, Chief Justice Ralph Gants determined that it is “not facially unreasonable” for employers to make exceptions to their substance abuse policies in instances where employees are using cannabis at home to treat a debilitating condition. “The fact that the employee’s possession of medical marijuana is in violation of federal law does not make it per se unreasonable as an accommodation,” he wrote.

The defendant in the case was fired on her first day on the job for testing positive for carboxy-THC on a company drug test. The former employee possessed a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis to treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Qualified patients may legally obtain cannabis in Massachusetts under a 2012 voter-initiated law.

The unanimous verdict reverses a lower court decision and is contrary to rulings in CaliforniaColoradoOregon, and Washington. In each of those states, justices ruled that employees had no legal protection if they were fired without cause for their use of medical cannabis.

“Patients should never have to choose between their heath and their job and for the first time, the courts are beginning to recognize that they shouldn’t have to do so,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions begin to apply this same rationale to patients as well as to all adults who are using cannabis responsibly off-the-job in compliance with the laws of their states.”

The case is Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing LLC.

CalNORML to Challenge Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ruling

CALIFORNIA: In an action supported by California NORML, medical marijuana patient James Maral will file a petition with the California Supreme Court to review the recent Third District Appellate Court decision upholding the city of Live Oak’s ban on medical marijuana cultivation.

San Francisco Attorney Joe Elford will draft and file the petition. “If you ban dispensaries and you ban cultivation, you’re ripping the heart out of California’s medical marijuana laws,” said Elford. “This decision conflicts with the intent of the electorate and Legislature and should not be allowed to stand.”

The announcement comes a day after Fresno county took steps to enact a total cultivation ban on first reading at its Board of Supervisors meeting. A second reading on the ordinance will take place on January 7. [Read more…]

WA State Liquor Board Says Keep Home Grows For Medical Marijuana

WASHINGTON: Washington state Liquor Control Board members signaled today they will recommend to lawmakers that medical-marijuana patients be allowed to continue growing pot in their homes.

Board members would allow qualified patients, or designated providers, to grow up to six plants, three flowering and three non-flowering. A formal recommendation, expected at next week’s board meeting, would reverse a proposal by staff at three state departments — Health, Revenue and the Liquor Control Board (LCB) – to outlaw home growing.

That proposal was the most controversial of those made by the staff. In public comments about the proposals, keeping home grows was the most common request, made by 362 people. Advocates said home growing would provide patients with more affordable marijuana and rare strains, believed to have therapeutic qualities, that they might not find in dispensaries or new recreational retail stores.

“We’re all in agreement on home grows,” said Sharon Foster, chair of the three-member board. Board members today discussed changes they’d like to see to staff proposals, but did not take formal action.