Massachusetts State Supreme Court Rules Businesses Can’t Fire Employees for Medical Marijuana Use
The ruling means any company that fires an MMJ patient for a failed drug test could be subject to a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Published on July 18, 2017

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of a local medical marijuana patient yesterday, opening the door for medical marijuana users across the state to defend against unfair workplace drug testing. 

According to the Boston Globe, the Supreme Judicial Court overturned a lower court ruling that had previously dismissed Cristina Barbuto’s wrongful termination lawsuit against her previous employer. Barbuto was fired by Advantage Sales and Marketing in 2015, on her first day of work, directly after testing positive for marijuana in a required drug screening.

Barbuto argued that the dismissal was unjust because she uses state-approved legal weed to treat her Crohn’s disease, and does not use her medicine before or while she is at work. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants agreed. 

“The use and possession of medically prescribed marijuana by a qualifying patient is as lawful as the use and possession of any other prescribed medication,” Gants wrote in the court’s decision. 

Barbuto says that she notified the company of her marijuana use during the interview, and was told it would not be a problem. 

“I explained to them that I just used a very small amount before meals,” Barbuto said. “It wasn’t a ‘high’ feeling, it was just getting me hungry and doing what the doctor told me.”

To try and defend their dubious actions, Advantage argued that because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, they are not required to make accommodations for its use, claiming that the firing was simply an effort to maintain a drug-free workplace. However, that didn’t go over well with Judge Gants, who tore apart that argument with ease. 

“The only person at risk of federal criminal prosecution for her possession of medical marijuana is the employee,” Gants wrote. The judge further decimated the sales and marketing company’s argument, adding, “A company that barred the use of insulin by its employees in accordance with a company policy would not be discriminating against diabetics because of their handicap, but would simply be implementing a company policy prohibiting the use of a medication.”

The Supreme Judicial Court ruling will allow Barbuto to once again file legal action against Advantage and opens the door for medical marijuana patients across the state to defend their right to the legal medicine.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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