What Does Colorado’s Marijuana Firing Verdict Mean for Working Class Patients In Michigan
While Colorado’s highest court ruled this week that employees can be fired for using medical marijuana – even when the consumption is done exclusively after hours, patients in Michigan are curious what the verdict means for them and continuing gainful employment.
The verdict, which was handed down unanimously by six justices on the Colorado Supreme Court, suggests that since medical marijuana ”is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law,” workers are not protected from termination under the state’s lawful off-duty statute. The justices said, however, that they were leaving the decision up to employers as to their tolerance of this substance.
Although the ruling does not directly affect medical marijuana patients in Michigan, it does set a disappointing precedent that will likely lead to working class medicinal cannabis users all across the country being thrown to the wolves of the unemployment line. The implication is that regardless of Michigan’s medical marijuana law, and the potential for a recreational market in the near future, workers are not protected from losing their jobs as long as weed is considered a Schedule I dangerous substance by the federal government.
This means that if you are currently enrolled in Michigan’s medical marijuana program, you run the risk of losing your job if you test positive for cannabis during a drug screen. The good news, however, is that as long as your marijuana consumption is within the confines of the law, meaning you are a recognized medical marijuana patient, you can still qualify for unemployment benefits.
Earlier last year, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided that state-approved medical marijuana patients should not be denied unemployment benefits due to a failed drug test.
“They still can be fired for medical-marijuana use — even off the job, which we think is wrong. But now, at least they can't be barred from unemployment benefits for that reason alone," Matt Abel, executive director of Michigan NORML, told the Detroit Free Press.
It is important for medical marijuana patients to understand their rights – you can be fired for your “legal” medical marijuana use. So it is advisable to keep your enrollment in the program a secret while on the job. On the other hand, if you do happen to get served your walking papers for testing positive for a substance that the state allows you to use, do not be shy about applying for unemployment benefits while searching for a new job.