Many states have approved the use of medical marijuana, despite the fact that the federal government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. As a result there is a tension between state rights to use medical marijuana and federal law prohibiting its possession. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had an opportunity to determine how to balance the rights of an employee who had been prescribed and was taking medical marijuana for Crohn’s Disease versus the employer’s interest in complying with federal law and maintaining a drug free work place. The Court found that the employee had sufficiently alleged that she was a qualified individual with a disability who was entitled to a reasonable accommodation related to use of medical marijuana. As a result, her firing after testing positive could be challenged and she could pursue a disability discrimination claim under state law.
As part of the hiring process, a new employee was required to take a drug test. She immediately explained to her supervisor that she suffered from Crohn’s disease and she had been prescribed and was using medical marijuana which was improving her appetite and allowing her to stabilize her weight. She said that she did not take it before work or during working hours, but that if tested, she would test positive. After being tested and getting a positive result, the human resource administrator called and fired her. When the employee tried to explain the she had a prescription, the administrator told her that the company follows federal law, not state law.
The employee ultimately sued in state court claiming that she was being discriminated against because of her disability and that the company had failed to accommodate her disability.