By Habit 420
Oregon Cannabis Connection
In a major legal victory, a Rhode Island woman that was discriminated against for being a medical marijuana patient has won a lawsuit against the company that refused to hire her. Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Richard Licht decided that employers cannot interfere with what a person does in private and that they should have the right to sue in possible cases of discrimination.
In 2014, Christine Callaghan sued Darlington Fabrics Corp. and alleged the company violated the state’s medical marijuana law, which is one of the few states that protect cannabis users from discrimination in employment. A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Callaghan had hoped to get hired for an internship that summer.
The attorney for Darlington Fabrics, Meghan Siket, argued that the state’s medical marijuana law makes companies condone what is a federal crime. She also argued that the law did not give those who believe they were discriminated against a “private right of action,” which is legal ease for a right to sue.
The judge did not agree with either of the companies claims. Judge Licht explained in his decision, “there is only one sensible interpretation” of the medical marijuana law. “[The law] must have an implied private right of action. Without one it would be meaningless.”
He also felt that a recreational marijuana user, whom is not legal in any respect in New York, would have an easier time getting a position with Darlington Fabrics. They do not have a medical need for cannabis use and would be able to abstain long enough to get the job. Judge Licht wrote in his 32 page decision:
“[T]his practice would place a patient who, by virtue of his or her condition, has to use medical marijuana once or twice a week in a worse position than a recreational user. The recreational user could cease smoking long enough to pass the drug test and get hired . . . allowing him or her to smoke recreationally to his or her heart’s content. The medical user, however, would not be able to cease for long enough to pass the drug test, even though his or her use is necessary to “treat or alleviat[e] pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with certain debilitating medical conditions.”
Callaghan was represented by the ACLU of Rhode Island. Her attorney was Carly Beauvais Iafrate, an ACLU volunteer. Iafrate explained in a statement:
“This decision sends a strong message that people with disabilities simply cannot be denied equal employment opportunities because of the medication they take,” explained If employers were permitted to discriminate against those using medical marijuana, then the good work done by those to enact the law will be completely undone. The judge’s decision makes clear that this law is not an empty promise.”
More states that have approved medical marijuana need to implement protections from discrimination. Most states have no such laws and medical marijuana patients are routinely treated like second-class citizens by employers, state agencies, hospitals, housing and much more. This decision will help provide a precedence for future cases and hopefully provide the impetus for other states to follow Rhode Islands lead.
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