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Michigan Court of Appeals rules against medical marijuana user in workplace lawsuit

Medical marijuana sign
Neeta Lind
Flickr - http://j.mp/1spglc0

A Michigan Court of Appeals decision has dealt a blow to workplace protections for medical marijuana users.

Plaintiff Angela Eplee sued the Lansing Board of Water and Light for withdrawing an offer of employment after she tested positive for marijuana during a drug screen that was part of the hiring process.  The offer had been conditioned on Eplee's complying with BWL's drug testing policies.

Eplee said her medical marijuana card allowed her to use the drug. 

BLW did not give a reason when it rescinded the job offer by letter on May 19, 2017. Subsequently BLW's lawyer notified Eplee's lawyer that Eplee's job offer would not be reinstated because of "the needs of the department" and denied that her job offer had been withdrawn because of "her status as a registered qualifying patient under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act."

Eplee alleged in her complaint that the job offer was withdrawn because she tested positive for marijuana and the withdrawal was in violation of the MMMA.

The court ruled on Tuesday that the MMMA did not prohibit BLW from withdrawing its job offer.

The court wrote in its opinion, "The statute does not provide an independent right protecting the medical use of marijuana in all circumstances, nor does it create a protected class for users of medical marijuana." 

"Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that she had any right or property interest of any manner in employment with BWL," the court wrote in its opinion. "Plaintiff has also failed to demonstrate that there was any prohibition - statutory or otherwise - on the BWL's ability to withdraw - for any or no reason at all - its conditional offer of employment." 

Brandon Gardner, Eplee's lawyer, said he is optimistic that the Michigan Supreme Court would reverse the Court of Appeals decision.  But he said it is up to his client whether to appeal.

"The decision obviously is disappointing for the public work force here in Michigan, particularly those who thought they had any type of protection under the Medical Marihuana Act," Gardner said.

"The ramifications are that there is no job security for any medical marijuana user in Michigan," said Gardner.

"People assume that they do have protections if they hold the card and they're otherwise following the rules. But that's not the case anymore," Gardner said. "The Court of Appeals is saying that the employer can fire or discriminate or terminate or discipline that card holder regardless of whether their activity is lawful or not. What we're saying is that while that may be true for a private employer, that is not true for a public employer because they're a state actor. And a state actor cannot fire or discriminate or discipline an employee just because they have a card."

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