The Michigan case could however be very different. That's because the state's medical cannabis statute specifically includes language designed to shield employees from adverse employment actions connected to the use of medical cannabis. The laws in the other states where employees have challenged their medical cannabis use as the basis of their termination do not offer similar protections.
The Michigan employee also makes for a very sympathetic plaintiff. Joseph Casias, 30, manages the Battle Creek, Michigan store and was the 2008 Associate of the Year. He was fired after testing positive for marijuana, even though he was registered to use it under Michigan's medical marijuana statute. According to Casias, he never smoked pot at work nor did he come to work stoned. Instead, Casias used marijuana in his off-hours to manage the sever pain associated with his brain tumor and cancer.
The use did however collide squarely with Wal-Mart's no-drug in the workplace policy. Casias showed the retailer his state medical cannabis card but the company refused to recognize it when it fired him. Wal-Mart's official position has been to express sympathy toward Casias' condition but feels like his use places the safety of its customers and associates at risk. According to a released statement, whether or not the drug was prescribed by a doctor is irrelevant- it has a zero-use, zero-tolerance policy and intends to abide by it.
Perhaps the retailer could sense how insensitive and misinformed its approach really is, because the statement also called on local lawmakers to create clearer legal standards for employers on how to manage a sensible workplace drug use policy as more states adopt medicinal cannabis laws while the drug remains illegal at the federal level. I don’t believe we should cut Wal-Mart any slack here, or any other big-box corporations that are firing their employees over the use of a medical substance to treat a valid illness. People aren’t getting fired for the use of hydro codeine, morphine, Prozac, adderall, or other prescription drugs!