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Fired for Marijuana: Employer Drug Policy Trumps

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

Add employers in the state of Washington to those who may legally fire medical marijuana users.

On Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court released a decision in which it severely curtailed the rights of medical marijuana patients in the workplace.

Not only may they be fired, but the decision also bars the state Human Rights Commission from investigating complaints, leaving employers with little liability under anti-discrimination laws.

Though many states with medical marijuana laws allow employers to fire medical marijuana users for on-the-job impairment, there are a lot of lingering questions about whether an employee can be fired after failing a drug test if he legally uses medicinal pot.

For one, under state law, its use is a form of medical treatment, and the employee may be considered disabled for the purposes of discrimination law. And for two, its use is not technically a state crime.

Washington's high court didn't buy either of these arguments.

It concluded that, regardless of voter intent, it would be contrary to public policy to force employers to sanction criminal activity, as medical marijuana is still a federal crime.

Additionally, it found that, because it is a crime, medical marijuana use can't form the basis for a reasonable accommodation claim, which leaves the state without authority to investigate employment discrimination claims relating to medical marijuana.

Though the court did say there may be a potential civil claim for wrongful discharge against employers who fire medical marijuana users, this decision essentially dictates that employer drug policies trump Washington's medical marijuana law.

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