In 2008, Joseph Casias won an award from a Walmart in Battle Creek, Michigan for being its Associate of the Year. In 2009, they fired him. A medical marijuana patient with sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor the size of a softball, Casias was drug tested following a knee injury at work. After testing positive for — you guessed it — marijuana, he was let go. He never used the drug at work nor was he ever under its influence while working. The American Civil Liberties Union subsequently filed a lawsuit against Walmart in support of Casias, but a federal judge dismissed the case in February. Last week, however, the ACLU petitioned an appellate court to review it. If the federal appeals court has any investment in the laws of Michigan, which it most certainly should, it must reexamine this case.
Michigan has laws that shield workers who use medicinal marijuana from facing certain legal repercussions. According to an April 27 article on the ACLU website, Proposal 1, passed by the state’s voters in 2008, protects medical marijuana patients from “disciplinary action by a business.” A person who uses marijuana obtained with a medicinal card cannot be discriminated against — and yet that is exactly what Walmart has done to Joseph Casias. This case is clearly a symptom of the prevailing negative perception of marijuana, and Casias is paying the price for it.
In no other situation would Casias be fired for using doctor-prescribed medication. He was using his medicine at home and not at the workplace. If Casias had back pains and was prescribed painkillers to help him sleep easier, a drug test revealing the presence of the drugs in his bloodstream would give Walmart no legal right to fire him. In this case, the only difference is the medicine. The stigma against marijuana should not prevent those receiving appropriate medical care from employment.
Marijuana has been proven time and time again to relieve various ailments and symptoms such as glaucoma, pain and nausea. Its legal evolution is going to be complicated, but Casias’s case is clear. Applying any other standard of doctor-prescribed drug use would show that Casias is in the right. Though a negative social attitude towards marijuana exists, it should not interfere with the treatment of patients.
Michigan has been a leader in pushing for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use, and if it fills in the legal potholes it will be a thorough expansion of individual rights and medicinal treatment. Joseph Casias was prescribed legal treatment and is being punished for it. The state could save everyone a lot of time and grief if it were to forgo this wishy-washy legality and completely legalize the drug. This would be a true accomplishment for the rights of individuals. In the meantime, Michigan must fix its ambiguous marijuana laws to prevent situations like this from arising in the future.