On May 23, a Rhode Island court ruled in favor of medical-marijuana patient Christine Callaghan, arguing that a company discriminated against her for off-duty medical cannabis use.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Callaghan in 2014 after the University of Rhode Island graduate student was denied a summer internship at Darlington Fabrics in Westerly, R.I. She uses cannabis to treat debilitating migraines.
The graduate company withdrew the internship after she informed its human-resources department she was a registered medical-marijuana patient.
“She explained that she would not bring medical marijuana onto the premises or come to work after having taken marijuana,” said the ACLU in a statement about the lawsuit.
“I just want Darlington and other companies in Rhode Island to treat me and other licensed patients the same way they would treat any other employee with a chronic health condition who is taking medication, as the law requires,” Callaghan explained at the time.
State Superior Court Judge Richard Licht concluded that off-duty cannabis use shouldn’t matter. “Marijuana need not enter the employer’s premises,” he wrote. “Indeed, this is all that is required to maintain a drug-free workplace… What an employee does on his or her off time does not impose any responsibility on the employer.”
While a lawyer for Darlington argued that the state’s medical marijuana law did not give a clear right to sue based on discrimination, the judge ruled that the law implied that it did. The company plans to appeal his ruling to the state Supreme Court.
The issue of workplace discrimination against medical cannabis patients has surfaced in various states with medical marijuana programs. In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against a patient who was fired for his off-duty cannabis use. The following year, a county employee in Washington State got his job back after an arbitrator ruled that his firing was “too harsh a punishment” for his off-duty medical cannabis use.
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