Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Wal-Mart Is at the Center of a Major Legal Battle Over Pot Patients' Rights

click on the title for the full story..........

AlterNet / By Mike Meno and Scott Michelman 12

Wal-Mart Is at the Center of a Major Legal Battle Over Pot Patients' Rights

Joseph Casias was wrongfully fired by Wal-Mart for testing positive for pot. Now the ACLU has filed a landmark lawsuit against the retailer that could alter the legal landscape

July 5, 2010

Earlier this week in Michigan, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart that has significant implications for the thousands of seriously ill Americans across the country who legally use medical marijuana under state law, but still face employer discrimination because of the continued stigma attached to the medicine that brings them relief.

The plaintiff in the case is Joseph Casias, a 30-year-old married father of two, who was wrongfully fired from his job at a Battle Creek, Mich., Wal-Mart after he tested positive for marijuana following a drug screen. I emphasize the word "wrongfully," because Casias is a legal, registered medical marijuana patient in Michigan; he takes marijuana on the recommendation of his oncologist to help relieve the effects of sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor that was the size of a softball when diagnosed. This treatment--which Casias says relieves his symptoms more effectively than, and without any of the side effects caused by, his previous medication--became a legal option for Casias in 2008, after Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana law that was drafted and sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project. In accordance with that law, Casias never used marijuana while on the job, nor did he ever work under the influence of marijuana. In fact, during his time at Wal-Mart, Casias was able to rise from an entry-level stocking position to a managerial role, and along the way was named the store's 2008 Associate of the Year.

But Casias's diligence meant nothing to Wal-Mart. In clear violation of Michigan's voter-approved law, which states that medical marijuana patients "shall not be subject to ... [any] penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business," Wal-Mart fired Casias simply because he had marijuana metabolites in his system, which says nothing about whether he was under the influence of marijuana at the time. Wal-Mart even had the temerity to challenge his unemployment benefits, though they retracted their opposition and issued a hollow statement calling the situation "unfortunate" after a barrage of protests that followed MPP's call for a nationwide boycott.

The Casias case will have great significance not only for Joseph's own life and livelihood but also for thousands of patients around the country in the 14 states and the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal. All too often, even after state law and a physician sanction a patient's use of marijuana -- a legitimate and safe medicine backed by countless studies, medical professionals, and public health groups -- employers still punish them for it. But no patient should be forced to choose between adequate pain relief and gainful employment, and no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in consultation with their doctors.

Imagine, for a moment, if employees were similarly reprimanded for having any other legal medication in their system. Surely Wal-Mart wouldn't fire someone for following their doctor's advice to take, during after-work hours, any of the prescription painkillers sold daily in Wal-Marts all over the country, the majority of which carry far more harmful risks than marijuana. Yet that's essentially what happened to Casias. He was punished for following his doctor's advice to take a legal drug that provided him relief. And sadly, that same injustice has affected untold numbers of legal medical marijuana patients across the country, the majority of whom remain silent about their experiences because they fear compromising their chances at future employment.

1 2 Next page »View as a single page 0

See more stories tagged with: wal-mart, medical marijuana

No comments: