ACLU to Appeal Dismissal of Lawsuit Against Wal-Mart for Firing Cancer Patient Who Legally Used Medical Marijuana

April 27, 2011

The American Civil Liberties Union today said it will appeal a decision by a federal judge to dismiss an ACLU lawsuit filed in June against Wal-Mart and the manager of its Battle Creek, Michigan store for wrongfully firing an employee for using medical marijuana in accordance with state law to treat the painful symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor and cancer.

Michigan voters in 2008 passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which provides protection for the medical use of marijuana under state law. But in a 20-page ruling today, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker said the law doesn’t mandate that businesses like Wal-Mart make accommodations for employees like Joseph Casias.

Casias, the Battle Creek Wal-Mart’s 2008 Associate of the Year, was fired from his job for testing positive for marijuana despite being legally registered to use the drug. In accordance with the law, Casias never ingested marijuana while at work and never worked while under the influence of marijuana. The ACLU will appeal Jonker’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

“This ruling does not uphold the will of Michigan voters, who clearly wanted to protect medical marijuana and facilitate its use by very sick people like Joseph Casias," said Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project.

"A choice between adequate pain relief and gainful employment is an untenable one that no patient should ever be forced to make. Yet Wal-Mart forced Joseph to pay a stiff and unfair price for using a medicine allowed under state law that has had a life-changing positive effect for him.”

Lead attorney Daniel W. Grow said he was“disappointed that the court would not let the people of Michigan, through our own state court system, interpret Michigan law. This case should be remanded to a Michigan court so a Michigan jury can hear Joseph's claim. A federal court judge shouldn't have eroded a state law that was overwhelmingly adopted by a ballot initiative."

Read our original release on Joseph's case.
Read more about our work on drug law reform.

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