No federal disability protections for medical marijuana users

A recent case out of California has interesting implications for employees who are legally prescribed medical marijuana. As more states decriminalize the drug for medical or recreational use, the relationship between relevant state and federal law is playing out in courts.

In this case, two severely disabled people were advised by their doctors to use marijuana to ease their pain. When the cities where they lived began closing marijuana dispensaries they sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. They argued that they were being denied access to public services on the basis of their marijuana use and thus their disabilities.

However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied their claim, saying that the ADA prohibits illegal drug use. While medical marijuana is legal in California, it remains illegal on a federal level - and the ADA is a federal statute.

While this is not technically an employment law case, the decision could set a precedent for dealing with legal medical marijuana in the framework of federal civil rights law, including employment law. For example, a similar claim could potentially be brought against an employer who fails to make reasonable accommodations for a disabled worker who uses marijuana.

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly in the workplace because of a disability or associated treatment, it may be wise to speak with an attorney. Someone experienced in the area of workplace discrimination may be able to help you review your case and pursue any appropriate claims for damages.

Source: Risk & Insurance, "Medical marijuana users denied ADA protections," Dec. 17, 2012

To learn more about claims of discrimination in employment, please visit our website.

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