A Michigan man was recently fired from his managerial position at a Walmart store in Battle Creek, Michigan, after it was discovered that he had been using medical marijuana outside of work hours in accordance with his doctor’s recommendations for treating an inoperable brain tumor. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Walmart on the man’s behalf, but a federal court recently responded by deciding that this form of medical discrimination by an employer is perfectly legal in the state, even though Michigan law recognizes and protects the legitimate use of marijuana for medical purposes.
When Joseph Casias was first diagnosed with brain cancer, he was offered a gamut of pharmaceutical drugs such as Lorcet, an opioid narcotic, that caused him to suffer severe nausea and various other horrific side effects. At the recommendation of his oncologist, Joseph decided to try taking medical marijuana instead, which he quickly discovered was highly effective at eliminating his pain symptoms and restoring some semblance of normalcy to his life in a way that pharmaceutical drugs could not, while also helping him work more effectively and take better care of his family.
“He had his appetite back, and he was able to interact more with us and our children,” said Joseph’s wife Angie to the ACLU about her husband’s dramatic improvements as a result of adopting the medical marijuana protocol.
Joesph’s pain symptoms vanished almost immediately as a result of the marijuana, in fact, which allowed him to perform his job responsibilities more effectively and participate in family activities that conventional medicine had otherwise prevented him from engaging in. Marijuana also allowed Joseph to put back on the weight he had lost as a result of the aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments that Western medicine first offered him as his only solution.
Walmart’s corporate policies discriminate against medical marijuana use
None of this would have been a problem for Joseph had it not been for a workplace accident that occurred after he began his marijuana treatments, which resulted in him having to undergo a drug test. Naturally, the test came up positive, and Walmart decided to immediately fire Joseph, a faithful employee who had been recognized by the company back in 2008 as “Associate of the Year.”
“No patient should be forced to choose between adequate pain relief and gainful employment,” said Scott Michelman, a staff attorney with the ACLU, back in 2010 when the issue first came to light. “And no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in consultation with their doctors.”
But U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker from the Western District of Michigan apparently disagrees, having ruled that Michigan’s medical marijuana law “says nothing about private employment rights.” Private corporations like Walmart that are prejudiced against alternative medical treatments, for instance, are not bound by the tenets of the law, which he says “give[s] some people limited protection from prosecution by the state, or from other adverse state action in carefully limited medical marijuana situations.”
Joseph’s attorneys; however, maintain that no private employer in Michigan should be able to target employees that use medicinal marijuana in accordance with Michigan’s “Medical Marihuana Program,” which specifically states that qualifying patients shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner by a business, which includes Walmart.