Landmark Federal Court Ruling Sets Powerful Precedent to Protect Cannabis Users
With the popularity of cannabis use on the rise across all adult demographics worldwide, more and more employers are dropping marijuana from the list of substances tested for during pre-employment drug testing.
Hell, even police departments from Canada to Chicago are starting to recognize that it is preposterous to ban law enforcement officers from legally using cannabis in their own free time.
But even though 31 states along with D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico have implemented medical marijuana programs, and even though 15 more states have made low-THC/high-CBD options legally available, and even though 9 states have legalized the adult recreational use of weed, too many cannabis users across our country are still forced to spark in the dark and keep their perfectly legal medical cannabis use a secret for fear of losing their job because of it.
To date, only nine states have anti-discrimination protection in place for medical marijuana users.
One of those states is Connecticut, where a landmark ruling was just handed down in just such a case and its impact may have set a positive new precedent for pot.
In 2012, a woman named Katelin Noffsinger was in a car accident that left her dealing with bouts of PTSD that were affecting her sleep patterns. A health care professional herself, Noffsinger eventually turned to doctor recommended medical marijuana – in the form of edible capsules – to help her get a full night’s sleep.
Seeking employment in the mainstream medical field, Noffsinger applied for a job at a local nursing home called Bride Brook Health & Rehabilitation Center in Niantic, Connecticut. She was found to be qualified and was offered the job, but the offer was contingent on her passing a mandatory drug screening.
Feeling she had nothing to hide, or be ashamed of, Noffsinger readily admitted to her use of MMJ, and explained the circumstances.
When her results came back positive for THC, the offer was rescinded – as has happened countless times to countless people over the decades of cannabis prohibition.
But Noffsinger wasn’t ready to become another failed statistic.
In 2016, she sued the nursing home, advancing her plight to a federal judge who just ruled that the would-be employer violated an anti-discrimination provision of Connecticut’s medical marijuana law.
Lawyers representing Bride Brook argued that they were just following federal law in which cannabis is still a Schedule I drug with no medicinal value. With government contracts on their books, they essentially said that their fear was retribution from Uncle Sam if they hired a dirty pothead.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer slapped that argument down quickly and definitively in a ruling that will likely be cited for years to come in similar cannabis-related employment disputes.
Meyer pointed to the federal Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988 and asked the nursing home’s attorneys to show him where it says that it requires drug testing at all, or where exactly it prohibits federal contractors from employing people who use medical marijuana outside the workplace as long as they comply with their state laws.
Of course, they couldn’t show that because it doesn’t say that.
As such, the case was tossed and Noffsinger is now suing for compensation for the time and income lost during the entire ordeal. Lawyers for the nursing home have gone silent in defeat.
Although similar rulings had been made in state court in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the case in Connecticut was the first such ruling at the federal level adding to its significance.
In all three cases, the job-seeker openly admitted to legal medicinal cannabis use during the interview process, and in all three cases they were humiliated anyway.
Several pieces of legislation are stalled in Washington D.C. right now that would release cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, but experts agree that such a monumental measure is unlikely under a Republican-led Congress.
In the meantime, the American Bar Association told TIME Magazine that the cases in CT, RI, & MA are “an emerging trend in employment litigation” and they warn employers to consider state medical marijuana laws when hiring.
The only "test” that an employer should ever give you is by honestly examining the quality and efficiency of work your produce for them.
Are you getting the job done? You pass.
Are you not? You’re gone.
The level of talent that is seeking meaningful employment is sky high for the companies that are already taking this approach.
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