Fired for legally using medical marijuana
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have now legalized medical marijuana given its many documented healing effects, but don’t get too excited: you can still be fired for smoking it (even in the privacy of your home) given that marijuana is classified as schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act—(Yep, alongside heroin and LSD), meaning it’s federally illegal.
But this could soon be changing, thanks to a new case before the Supreme Court. Brandon Coats is a quadriplegic who uses medical marijuana for his muscle spasms and spinal injury. Even though he lives in CO, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2000, his employer, The Dish Network (yes, the people who make your satellite TV) has a zero-tolerance drug policy. In 2010, Brandon tested positive for cannabis and was promptly fired.
If you’re confused as to how The Dish Network could get away with this, it’s because marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, which trumps state law; so even in states where medical marijuana is legal, companies can fire anyone who uses it.
Coats challenged his firing, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case earlier this year. His case is just one of many where employers have fired exemplary workers for using medical marijuana in states where it is legal—and courts have frequently sided with the corporations.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Coats, then the more than 334,000 registered marijuana users in the US would finally have some protection against being fired for using a legal drug prescribed by their doctors. At a time when more and more states are moving to make recreational marijuana legal, and when medical use has been legal in many states for almost two decades, it seems a bit ludicrous that people can be fired for taking their medication.
But yet again, you can still be fired in 29 states for being gay. So should we be surprised?