February 11, 2011

Michigan State Law Protects Employees Who Use Marijuana To Treat Debilitating Diseases

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - The American Civil Liberties Union today said it will appeal a decision by a federal judge to dismiss its lawsuit filed in June against Wal-Mart and the manager of its Battle Creek, Michigan store for wrongfully firing an employee for using medical marijuana in accordance with state law. The patient, Joseph Casias, used marijuana to treat the painful symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor and cancer.

Michigan voters in 2008 passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which provides protection for the medical use of marijuana under state law. But in a 20-page ruling today, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker said the law doesn't mandate that businesses like Wal-Mart make accommodations for employees like Casias, the Battle Creek, Michigan Wal-Mart's 2008 Associate of the Year who was fired from his job at the store for testing positive for marijuana, despite being legally registered to use the drug. In accordance with the law, Casias never ingested marijuana while at work and never worked while under the influence of marijuana.

The ACLU will appeal today's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The following can be attributed to Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project:

"Today's ruling does not uphold the will of Michigan voters, who clearly wanted to protect medical marijuana and facilitate its use by very sick people like Joseph Casias. We intend to appeal this disappointing decision. A choice between adequate pain relief and gainful employment is an untenable one that no patient should ever be forced to make. Yet Wal-Mart forced Joseph to pay a stiff and unfair price for using a medicine allowed under state law that has had a life-changing positive effect for him."

The following can be attributed to Daniel W. Grow, a St. Joseph, Michigan-based attorney and one of the lawyers on the case:

"We are disappointed that the court would not let the people of Michigan, through our own state court system, interpret Michigan law. This case should be remanded to a Michigan court so a Michigan jury can hear Joseph's claim."

Lawyers on the case include Michelman, Grow and Kary L. Moss, Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan.

Additional information about the case is available online at: www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform/aclu-sues-wal-mart-behalf-cancer-patient-fi...

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