In a lawsuit that has received national attention, a cancer patient was terminated from his position at Walmart in Battle Creek. The man is appealing the federal district court’s dismissal of his wrongful termination claim related to his lawful possession and use of marijuana.
In 2009, Walmart fired the Michigan cancer patient, who has an inoperable brain tumor, because he used medical marijuana outside of work hours in violation of company policy, but not Michigan law. The lower court dismissed the man’s suit last year after deciding that although the law protects him from criminal charges, it does not prevent employers like Walmart from implementing and enforcing their employee drug policies. For the lower court, it did not matter that the cancer patient followed the law’s guidelines by not using marijuana on the job.
According to the cancer patient’s lawyers, the 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act protects their client and others like him from “disciplinary action by a business” for using medical marijuana. They say the lower court ignored this important provision in the law.
Under Michigan law, people with a doctor-authorized medical marijuana card can possess a small amount of marijuana and grow marijuana plants.
However, for Michigan residents who are not protected by the Medical Marijuana Act, the possession of a small amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor that carries substantial penalties. For example, people convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana can lose their driving privileges for up to six months. Cultivating, distributing or possessing a significant amount of marijuana, on the other hand, are considered felonies and carry even stricter penalties including jail time.
Source: MLive.com, “Report: Federal appeals court to hear case of Battle Creek Walmart employee fired for medical marijuana use,” Yvonne Zipp, April 18, 2012