Employee Sues Hospital for Firing Her Over Legal Medical Marijuana Use

Should you have the right to use legal marijuana for medical or recreational purposes on your own time, without being fired? You would think the answer would be obvious, of course not. If you are using a product legally, and it has no negative impact on your job performance, it should be absolutely none of your employer’s business.

But that is simply not the case in 2014, where employers can and do require drug tests, and fire people who fail, regardless of any relevance to one’s work.

So the next battle for the rights of smokers and patients to legal marijuana is taking place on the grounds of civil rights, in courtrooms across America.

Donna Smith was fired from her job at a hospital in New Mexico after testing positive for marijuana. She is a legal medical marijuana patient with PTSD from her military service.

donnasmithShe is filing suit for wrongful termination against the Presbyterian Health Services in Albuquerque under the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

Marijuana Use is A Civil Rights Issue

We’ve talked before about the Brandon Coats case, who was a model employee for Dish Network before being fired after failing a drug test. Dish has an arbitrary zero tolerance policy, even though there was never any suggestion that he was ever using during working hours.  The Coats case is still waiting to be heard before the Colorado supreme court.

Part of this battle is simply a labor vs. management issue. Business owners will never willingly agree to give up the right to fire employees for any reason.  The ability to get rid of employees for arbitrary or spurious reasons is a benefit to them.

And it’s not just about your job. Medical marijuana can hurt you in family court when it comes to custody battles, or any other kind of discrimination.

New Mexico and Marijuana Laws

New Mexico has a complicated relationship with marijuana and drug enforcement in general. The marijuana laws are fairly middle of the road as far as strictness.

Only possession of over 8 ounces or weed is a felony. Anything less is a misdemeanor.

Most petty cases of pot possession have a maximum of 15 days in jail, with actual jail time served incredibly rare. And New Mexico does have diversion programs and treatment as a sentencing alternative available.

They were the first state to accept medical marijuana as a legitimate treatment for PTSD.

However, on the law enforcement side, they are known for gratuitous strip searches, and shooting at minivans full of kids.

Public opinion clearly and convincingly supports legalization of marijuana across the board. It is a non issue for most people.  The full legalization experiments in Colorado and Washington have proved that no disasters have resulted, it’s been almost shockingly non-eventful.

But the powers that be, including law enforcement, courts, and those with entrenched interests in the status quo are still fighting inevitable reform and acceptance of marijuana use at every turn.

About David Matson

David writes about criminal justice issues.
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