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Medical Marijuana: ACLU Sues Wal-Mart for Firing Patient

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #639)
Consequences of Prohibition

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against retail giant Wal-Mart for firing an employee who used medical marijuana. The lawsuit argues that firing an employee for lawfully using medical marijuana violates the provisions of the 2009 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

Joseph Casias, 30, is a cancer patient who began using medical marijuana on his oncologist's recommendation. Although he had been named Associate of the Year at the Battle Creek Wal-Mart in 2008 and had an exemplary employment record with the store, Casias was fired after taking a company-required drug test when he injured his knee at work.

"Wal-Mart made him pay a stiff and unfair price for his medicine," said Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. It isn't fair that any "patient should have to choose between adequate pain relief and gainful employment," he said. "And no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in consultation with their doctors."

Wal-Mart officials said it defers to federal standards in cases where the law is unclear. Michigan is an at-will employment state, meaning employers can fire an employee for any reason except those barred by federal law, such as discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. The ACLU will argue that Casias' firing amounts to medical discrimination.

More than 20,000 Michigan residents are registered medical marijuana patients. The case could have broad implications, not only in Michigan, but in other medical marijuana states that are grappling with the issue.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


GLKing (not verified)

I have a BS in Criminal Justice and an AS in Paralegal studies so I follow legal issues. To my knowledge Congress, nor any Federal Court, has removed Marijuana as a Schedule I drug which means it is ILLEGAL to possess and distribute. NO State can create a Law that supersedes Federal Law. These Laws are therefor unconstitutional and the Obama Administration needs to deal with the problem. But instead they are filing lawsuits against Arizona because they are trying to curb illegal aliens from robbing United States Citizens. I am not saying that marijuana isn't a valid medical tool. I just watched a documentary on non-narcotic form of LSD was shown to have promising benefits in patients with cluster headaches. Has anyone looked at Hemp as an alternative to Marijuana?

Fri, 07/09/2010 - 3:43pm Permalink
hungryjoe (not verified)

In reply to by GLKing (not verified)

I don't believe you. If you did you would know that those powers not specified by the constitution for the federal government are reserved for the states and that the reason the federal government initially used its taxation powers to control marijuana was because lawmakers did not believe that the federal government had the legal right to directly regulate the drug -- that right being reserved by the constitution for the states.

As for your red herring about the Arizona imigration law, the constitution reserves control of the borders for the federal government. If the federal government doesn't challenge the Arizona immigration law then it is de facto ceding one of its enumerated powers to the states. The federal government's challenge of that law has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with prevention of an erosion of the federal governments consitutionally defined powers. Unfortunately it works both ways and for nearly one hundred years the states have allowed the federal government to usurp their authority in the area of the war on drugs.

Fri, 07/09/2010 - 4:56pm Permalink
Nagalfar (not verified)

In reply to by GLKing (not verified)

States rights in a great many ways trump Federal rights.. seems you may have missed a few classes in your legal field.. but, the good ol boy network in D.C. love people who think like you do I will give you that, that is why we hear rumblings of succession from States like Montana, Texas and others, that too is a state right..

Its nothing personal.. but, you are very quick to throw your "degrees" out to make light of you what is implied "superior knowledge" over that of most people, and you are very quick to prove you do not understand the basis for the foundations of the type of Govt. we are granted..

Fri, 07/09/2010 - 5:50pm Permalink
Malkavian (not verified)

In reply to by GLKing (not verified)

MJ usually refers to the flowering tops of the cannabis plant. That's where the medicinal cannabinoids are located (THC, CBD, CBN, etc.).

Hemp is usually a term for the fibers of the cannabis plant. There's slim to none medicinal value to hemp. It's worse than asking you to chew some willow to cure that headache of yours (there's "aspirin" in willow trees).

Some researchers are looking into various different cannabinoids for their medicinal value, some of which are either non-psychoactive in the funny way or which possess certain psychoactive effects like being an anti-depressant.

I sorta get your point if "them people can't just use something else", but right now that's a cruel statement. Marinol, which is 100% pure delta-9-THC, is not nearly as effective and without side-effects as the natural compound that contains many different cannabinoids, but it's also a lot more expensive and only comes in pill form. Sativex, a sprayed drug that's simply based on extracts of the cannabis plant where THC and CBD is in a 1:1 ratio is probably better medicinally, but it's bound to be insanely expensive like Marinol. MJ is cheap, safe and effective.

It's been going on for too long anyway, and we just CANNOT keep waiting for all those do-gooders to get around to letting the people enjoy the simple freedom of being able to medicate.

How many in your family have suffered needlessly because they didn't have access? Just count the cancer patients, that'll do.

Fri, 07/09/2010 - 7:33pm Permalink
BullHubbard (not verified)

In reply to by Malkavian (not verified)

Medicate, shmedicate. Sure, Cannabis is a useful medicine, but for me the problem has always been a denial of the freedom to alter one's consciousness without coercion or interference from the State. This has always been the larger and more fundamental issue. Hypocritically, the conservative Republicans, and many Americans regardless of political orientation, constantly prate about "big government" getting off the backs of its citizens, but when it comes to personal behavior of which they disapprove, like sexual orientation or the freedom to alter one's consciousness, these troglodytes are the first to condemn their fellow citizens. 'Twas ever thus.

Sat, 07/10/2010 - 2:35pm Permalink
anynomus (not verified)

In reply to by GLKing (not verified)

as far as our "government" is concerned (Comment posted by Anonymous on Fri, 07/09/2010 - 2:43pm) My personal opinion is they are the pot calling the kettle black , they insist that marijuana "has no medical value" and yet they there self's hold 3 patents on it , one as a Nero protect-ant and another for pain .. No the way I see it the government has been harping "it's bad for you" for so long that have brainwashed the public into thinking it's bad before they even did any research on it and now that they (the government) are finding out how wrong they are,, they not sure how to admit they are wrong with out loosing face with the public,, never mind how much it cost the taxpayers to keep a prohibition going on marijuana when it is such a failure . 20,000 registered medical marijuana users in Mi alone and that is just the ones that have enough nerve to say they use it and you really think your going to be able to stop it? lol all it's doing is ruining peoples life's for no good reason and over crowding the prison system forcing judges to let violent criminals walk with a fine and probation

Sat, 07/10/2010 - 9:06am Permalink
Grandma420 (not verified)

In reply to by GLKing (not verified)

Well, that's not gonna happen. He just laughs at it. The government gave each state the right to vote on whether Cannabis would be legal in that particular state. Voters had their say...The END.

The guy from Walmart has all reasons to stay gainfully employed with Walmart. He has a legal prescription for his medication.

That's like Walmart saying, well, you can take prescription opiates and we won't do anything to you. If you took prescription marijuana in the last 4 weeks, we fire you. F that!

What happens here will change the way companies will have to comply with the legal cannabis issue. Stay Tuned

Sat, 07/10/2010 - 3:49pm Permalink
brizzle (not verified)

hemp, for what, medicine. there is nothing on this world like cannabis, why try and get a lesser medicine. and its illegal? so your going to trust a government that sells us cigarettes (kills 400 000 a year) and go and say cannabis(not one recorded death) is bad for our health. not me bud. You are delirious.

Fri, 07/09/2010 - 4:06pm Permalink
Guest (not verified)

In reply to by brizzle (not verified)

Your ignorance is showing. Your one little statistic is actually rather irrelevant. Yes, cigarettes do kill people every year. It is self inflicted. Dying of lung cancer because you yourself picked up a cigarette is entirely different from dying in a car crash because someone was LEGALLY high. You don't have to have any actual ailment at all to get medical marijuana. A reporter from CNN walked into a "doctor's office" and received a prescription by simply saying she had anxiety problems. Medical marijuana will not work in our society. It will cause more harm than good, and people that don't actually need it, as if anyone does, are getting it everyday. As for Federal vs. State: Bush and Obama both agreed that it should not be legal. California went to court and lost. The only reason they are still so able to keep doing it is because there are not enough Federal Agents to enforce the law. It is still illegal, and even though a Michigan policeman may not arrest you if you have a prescription a Federal one will.

Fri, 03/04/2011 - 10:18am Permalink
is it fair (not verified)

In reply to by Guest (not verified)

its okay how you going to drug test people who work in pain and say its okay to take pain killers and still work on a job you think its getting out of control you cant smoke cigarettes butt they law says u can work on pain killers every four hours how safe is that butt if you smoke a some marijuana in your home and not at work its not okay we voted it in  it was are right to be able to do that with out getting fired from your job do you see anything wrong here i really do i have so much pain in my back and 25 years at my job is it fair

Wed, 04/06/2011 - 4:04pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

Courts have consistently found on this issue that states are not obligated to enforce or duplicate federal laws -- your criminal justice professors will most likely tell you that if you ask them, and that's what the courts would tell Obama if he did what you suggest. These rulings mean that Michigan or Washington or any other state has the right to consider marijuana legal for medicine or anything else, with respect to their own laws. If the feds want to go in and bust people they can -- that's what federal supremacy means -- but they can't force the state to help them, even on paper.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Fri, 07/09/2010 - 4:26pm Permalink
Moonrock (not verified)

I'm surprised that a lawsuit similar to this one hasn't already been filed in one of the other states that have had prescription cannabis for much longer than Michigan has. Of course, the ACLU chooses its lawsuits very judiciously (no pun intended), but with so many employers drug testing their employees, you'd think there would have been someone who wanted to go on working while getting treatment, and so inevitably gets tested positive.

I guess the message to Walmart is: It doesn't matter if you thought you were upholding federal law, what does matter is that you violated STATE law. You'd think this sort of thing would have been settled by now, but as they say, the wheels of justice grind slowly, but exceedingly fine.

Sat, 07/10/2010 - 5:13am Permalink
Lou Reed (not verified)

Yeah, try telling the Fed's your state will vote to not permit its citizens to pay federal taxes because your state has made a law outlawing federal income or sales taxes.

The Fed's don't want to enforce many illegal alien laws, who are coming into this country via drug gangs, who may kill them if they refuse, to bring drugs into this country. But the libs want their illegal votes.

But the Fed's will go against the voters and enforce drug laws that people have voted in favor of.

What's up with one Judge overturning millions of voters wishes on ballot measures?

This government is getting way too out of control


" State courts are bound then to give effect to federal law when it is applicable and to disregard state law when there is a conflict; federal law includes, of course, not only the Constitution and congressional enactments and treaties but as well the interpretations of their meanings by the United States Supreme Court. While States need not specially create courts competent to hear federal claims or necessarily to give courts authority specially, it violates the supremacy clause for a state court to refuse to hear a category of federal claims when the court entertains state law actions of a similar nature. "


Thu, 08/26/2010 - 3:13pm Permalink

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