Former Wal-Mart Employee Sues Retailer for Wrongful Firing Based on Medical Marijuana Use

Detroit, MI—a former Wal-Mart employee who apparently uses medical marijuana for an inoperable brain tumor is suing the retailer for what he believes was a wrongful firing from his job after he tested positive for the drug.

Joseph Casias was fired last year after working at a Battle Creek Wal-Mart for five years. Although he tested positive for marijuana, he was legally registered with the state to use the drug, according to his lawsuit. Casias, 30, stated that he never used marijuana at work and never came to work under the influence.

Michigan voters approved medical marijuana use in 2008. Federal laws still prevent sale and cultivation of the drug, but many patients obtain a medical marijuana license from their doctors to use the drug to relieve chronic and severe pain. Nevertheless, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. recently said in a statement that “it is an unfortunate situation all around” and that it is sympathetic to Casias’ condition, but that his use of marijuana imposed a threat to customer and employee safety. Wal-Mart is likely referring to the fact that Casias was given the drug test only after he injured his knee at work in November. The results of his urine test indicated drug use in recent days or weeks and Casias said the injury had nothing to do with his marijuana usage. Rather, he maintains that he simply stepped the wrong way.

Fourteen states provide protections for patients who use marijuana as prescribed by a doctor. However, it is still illegal under federal law although the Obama Administration said it would relax prosecution guidelines last year. In addition, in April of last year, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that an employer is not required to accommodate the use of marijuana, arguing that state laws are trumped by federal laws. State supreme courts in Montana and California have also ruled that medical marijuana laws don’t protect employees from being fired. According to the ACLU, however, Michigan’s law more explicitly protects employees from being disciplined for legally using medical marijuana.

Casias’ cancer has been in remission for nine years, but his pain still causes difficult with his speaking ability. He only began using the marijuana after his oncologist recommended he use the drug to decrease his pain without the nausea that accompanies other prescription painkillers.

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