A Massachusetts woman who cleared her medical marijuana use with her new employer—and who was then subsequently fired on her first day of work, anyway, for having positive drug test results—has filed a discrimination complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in an attempt to get her job back.
Reports the Boston Globe:
[Cristina] Barbuto said she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2011, an illness that often robs a patient’s appetite. Because she rarely feels hungry, Barbuto struggles to maintain a healthy weight, and traditional medicines have not helped, she said. So she smokes a small amount of marijuana before meals a couple of times a week, she said, to spur her appetite, but not enough to make her feel high.
Even though marijuana dispensaries have yet to open in Massachusetts, state law allows patients with certification from a doctor to use the drug. Barbuto said she received her certification last summer.
Sounds relatively simple—and as the article points out, Barbuto had been working freelance until her employment began (with a group called Advantage Sales and Marketing), so she didn’t have to clear her pot use by anyone. But because of variations between state and federal laws, things got tricky—and Cristina lost her job.
Most states’ medical marijuana regulations, including those in Massachusetts, allow employers to prohibit use of the drug on the job or in the workplace even for those legally sanctioned to use it.
Beyond that, rules get murky. A handful of states, such as Arizona, Delaware, and Minnesota, prohibit employers from firing an employee for a positive marijuana drug test if the employee holds a valid state-issued card allowing the drug for medical use.
Further complicating the matter: Companies with federal contracts must follow federal drug laws that prohibit marijuana use, regardless of state law, DiNome said.
And then there are companies that hew to federal rules on marijuana regardless of state marijuana laws.
In other words: the ambiguity of the legal system, combined with the relative new-ness of medical marijuana licensing means that employers have the upper hand in regulating employees who use pot therapeutically, even if they have a verified medical condition and reference from a doctor.
What sucks most about Barbuto’s situation is that she seems aware that not everyone is cool with medical marijuana (yet)—and performed due diligence on her end in being upfront about her pot use. G.I. issues are no joke—they can be downright debilitating—and neither is having one’s livelihood fucked with because someone changed their mind about their feelings toward something that’s en route to becoming as socially acceptable as checking email while waiting in line at Starbucks. For Cristina’s sake, I hope she finds another job with a company that values her talents—not one that hopes to belittle a health condition and a person who’s doing the best she can to treat it.
Image via AP