July 19, 2017
On Monday, the Supreme Judicial Court had ruled that since voters in Massachusetts have approved medical marijuana, employees cannot be fired if found positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, in order to keep their job, employees would have to prove that they have consumed cannabis as per a doctor’s recommendation.
The ruling was a result of the Cristina Barbuto case. She is a patient of Crohn’s Disease, and had been using medical marijuana to relieve the pain. It was unveiled that Cristina had already informed her boss about her disease and that she was using medical marijuana as a treatment. The result of her opening up was not quite what she expected. It only took the employers one day to fire her after finding out about her consumption.
The Human Resources Department—Advantage Sales and Marketing—told Cristina that the company does not follow state law, but instead conforms to the laws of the federal government. According to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, Cristina had not done anything illegal. She consumed cannabis legally as per the right the state has granted to her. Furthermore, the actions of Barbuto also did not put ASM at any sort of risk.
Back in 2012, when medical marijuana was legalized, it was explicitly mentioned that discrimination will be banned. As per the law,
“Any person meeting the requirements of this law shall not be penalized under Massachusetts law in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, for such actions.”
In the anti-discrimination law, Cristina Barbuto falls under the ‘Handicapped’ umbrella. This is because of her debilitating medical condition. Also, Barbuto would have easily continued to perform her job provided that her employers would have granted her permission to consume cannabis a few times every week.
On the other hand, ASM’s attorney stated that the company had not gone against the law, contrary to the Supreme Court’s statement. It was ruled by the justices that anti-MMJ policies cannot be enforced by employers for workers who have been recommended the use by a doctor. This would be similar to a case where employers would discriminate against the use of insulin for patients suffering from diabetes.
The ruling by the Supreme Court, however, may not be applicable for all scenarios. For instance, a driver cannot be allowed to go under the influence of marijuana as it could pose a lot of safety threats.