Federal Court in Louisiana Sides With Patient Who Was Terminated for Failing a Marijuana Drug Test
More good news for medical marijuana patients: A federal court last month sided with an employee in a wrongful termination case involving a failed marijuana test. This is yet another sign that outdated anti-cannabis stigmas are starting to fade, and that there has never been a better time to get your Louisiana Marijuana Card.
Terminated Employee Failed a Marijuana Test - Sort of
While the decision in this case is a win for medical marijuana patients, the plaintiff who sued her former employer for wrongful termination only kind-of-sort-of failed a marijuana drug test.
Michelle Huber was fired by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida when a drug test showed she had THC in her system. Huber sued for wrongful termination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Blue Cross asked the judge to find in their favor in a summary judgment, tossing the case without going to trial, but the judge found Huber’s argument compelling.
First, Huber noted she was not using marijuana, she was using CBD. She also pointed out that she was doing so based on her doctor’s advice, and that she had notified her employer two years previously that she was using a medication that could possibly cause her to wrongly fail a drug test.
Due to the fact that Huber’s doctor said she needed the relief of CBD to function in her position, and because Huber wasn’t actually using marijuana (which would have violated her employer’s drug policy), Huber argued that her dismissal amounted to a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The judge agreed that Huber had an argument that a jury might accept, and that therefore the case would go to trial.
Patient Who “Suffered from Chronic and Severe Migraines to the Point of Disability” Found Relief With CBD
Huber began receiving accommodations from Blue Cross in 2006, because she “suffered from recurrent debilitating migraines” to the point of disability. In 2016, she was diagnosed with hemiplegic migraines. These migraines are so severe that they cause total impairment for up to three days.
It was at that point that Huber’s doctor suggested she try “non-psychoactive hemp-based CBD oil,” and when notified of this, Blue Cross accepted the doctor’s recommendation and approved of Huber’s use of the cannabis derivative.
After beginning her CBD regimen, Huber’s condition improved as well as her performance at work. In fact, in the time since she began using CBD, Huber was promoted, received outstanding performance evaluations, and reduced her use of leave time under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The judge’s ruling noted that if Huber needed CBD to overcome her condition and function better at work, then firing her due to her CBD use could be discriminatory. Further, the judge noted that as the CBD was a medical necessity for Huber, it was incumbent upon Blue Cross to devise a method of drug testing that would rule out false failures from CBD use.
But What About Patients Who Need Medical Marijuana?
It’s important to note the limits on this good news.
First of all, the case hasn’t gone to trial yet, and a jury could still side with Blue Cross. Second, it’s important to note that the judge didn’t rule that Blue Cross had no right to fire an employee for having THC in their systems, nor did the judge rule that Blue Cross couldn’t have terminated a patient who had been using marijuana, medical or otherwise.
Furthermore, while it’s an amazing thing for Huber to have found relief from her debilitating condition from CBD alone, what about patients whose conditions don’t respond as well to that cannabis derivative and who instead need the greater potency that medical marijuana offers?
CBD is found in both marijuana and hemp, its THC-free cousin. However, research has repeatedly indicated that the medicinal quality of marijuana is enhanced by the variety of chemicals the plant contains, including THC. This phenomenon has been dubbed the entourage effect, and the bottom line of the effect is that cannabis medications are more potent and more effective if they contain a wider range of cannabinoids.
Based solely on the judge’s ruling, if Blue Cross had offered definitive proof that Huber had used marijuana, medical or otherwise, on her doctor’s advice or not, the company would have been able to terminate Huber with impunity.
So while this decision is a big victory for Huber, it’s only a minor victory for medical marijuana patients, in that it only demonstrates that attitudes towards cannabis products are starting to change.
Fortunately, local lawmakers are taking the necessary steps to protect patients who need medical marijuana.
Louisiana Lawmakers Passed Employment Protections for Medical Marijuana Patients
We wrote about the recent passage of a law that protects some employees from situations similar to the one Huber was faced with.
Republican-led states have traditionally been the slowest to embrace medical marijuana, although that trend has begun to change as more patients discover the safe relief cannabis can offer and have begun demanding their lawmakers allow them access to it.
The employment law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature is an example of this trend. The bill was introduced and passed by GOP lawmakers, and it forbids the termination of state employees based solely on their doctor-approved medical marijuana use.
No, the law wouldn’t protect someone like Huber, who worked for a private company, because courts would probably interpret such a law as government overreach into the private sector.
Republican lawmakers protecting marijuana patients from discriminatory terminations and a federal judge telling a private employer that they can’t outright fire a patient based solely on their choice of medications is a sure sign that medical marijuana is here to stay.
There Has Never Been a Better Time to Start Your Medical Marijuana Journey!
Remember, only those with a Louisiana Marijuana Card can legally use cannabis in the Bayou State, and only cardholders have any protection at all from termination for doing so.
With judges siding with cannabis patients over employers and lawmakers working to pass so many improvements, including employment protections, there has never been a better time to find out what medical marijuana can do for you. Why wait any longer? Reserve an evaluation online today with one of our compassionate, knowledgeable doctors, and see if you qualify for the safe, natural relief only cannabis can offer!
Doctors Who Care.
Relief You Can Trust.
At Louisiana Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
Call us at (833) 253-2943, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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