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Michigan Medical Marijuana Law only protects Public Employees

The Wisconsin Employment and Labor Law Blog provides important
information about a recent decision
by the 6th Circuit that limited
Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) by allowing private employers to
terminate an employee who fails a drug test, even if he or she tests positive
only for doctor-prescribed marijuana use under the MMMA. This keeps Michigan’s
law in-line with statutes in California, Montana, and Washington, where medical
marijuana laws do not constrain private employers hiring decisions.

In the case, the employee received a medical marijuana card
from the state in order to use the drug to help mitigate pain from sinus cancer
and an inoperable brain tumor. After an injury at work, he was drug tested at
the hospital as part of company policy, at which time Walmart (his employer)
learned of the marijuana in his system. Although he stated that he never smoked
at work or showed up at the job under the influence of marijuana, Walmart’s
corporate headquarters still decided to terminate his employment.

The federal district court held that the MMMA law did not
alter Michigan’s general rule of at-will employment, and that the word “business”
in the statute did not reach private employers. The 6th Circuit
affirmed, holding that the word business was a modifier of “licensing board or
bureau”, rather than a phrase extending the MMMA to cover a separate category
of private employers.

As such, employees need to be careful when using
drugs, even when legal under a state statue authorizing medical use. Private
employee conduct is often not protected, and private employers can often take
severe measures against at-will employees. Those with questions about what
conduct is prohibited should consult with an attorney to protect themselves
from dismissal.

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