Although medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, users still face possible consequences and stigmas in different areas of their lives. Joseph Casias, a 5 year employee who had won the "Associate of the Year" award in 2008, was fired from his job at Wal-Mart in 2009 when he tested positive for drugs. Casias suffers from a rare type of cancer affecting his brain and nasal cavity; his oncologist recommended medical marijuana to help alleviate his chronic pain. The ACLU has now filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart on behalf of Casias.
ACLU attorney Scott Michelman says the lawsuit will help to establish the limits of protection extended to employees under the Michigan law. "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," Michelman said.
Casias claims that he never used marijuana while at work. But a routine test conducted after he injured his knee on the job showed a positive result for marijuana, which simply indicates usage within an extended time period of several days.
Wal-Mart says that although they are sympathetic to Casias' situation, their first priority must be the safety of their customers.
Last week, Nicholas Pouch, a Washington father, lost custody rights of his children because of his use of medical marijuana. Even though the law protects a patient's right to use marijuana for medical reasons, it is up to the courts to rule when custody rights are contested.
A Chicago attorney predicts that there will be many more of these types of lawsuits, as the limits of the laws will continue to be tested.
Many proponents question why patients using medical marijuana should be treated differently than those using prescribed narcotic painkillers or bipolar medications. What types of protections will be offered to patients? With medical marijuana legal in 14 states, and more states considering legalization, many legal issues will need to be addressed.