Connecticut law prohibits employers from discriminating against medical marijuana cardholders, so employers cannot fire, deny employment or take any other adverse steps toward a medical marijuana cardholder, unless employing that person would risk loss of federal funding. A recent case involving medical marijuana patient Katelin Noffsinger and SSC Niantic Operating Company ended in a victory for Ms. Noffsinger.
A federal district court judge didn’t find any reasons given by SSC Niantic where federal law preempted Connecticut state law, according to JD Supra. Connecticut is one of the few states with a non-discrimination clause in its law. It protects employees from termination, discrimination in the hiring process or being denied employment based upon their status as a medical marijuana cardholder.
Noffsinger’s job offer was rescinded after she failed a pre-employment drug test, which she informed the potential employer that she would due to her cardholder status. The nursing home fired back asking for the lawsuit against them to be dismissed. They cited infringements of the CSA, Americans with Disabilities Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. They said that Connecticut’s medical marijuana law is invalid – citing the Supremacy Clause included in the U.S. Constitution.
While denying SSC Niantic’s request, the court took the time to answer questions pertaining to all Connecticut employers. Some question an individual’s right to action (right to sue) when discrimination or other issues arising regarding employment and their legal use of medical marijuana. The court determined that individuals can, in fact, file suit against those showing discrimination or violations of the state’s medical marijuana laws.
The court also said that federal law doesn’t preempt Connecticut’s anti-discrimination employment clause. There are no preemptions of any other law, at least known to the court, where an employer could discriminate against an employee or potential employee (unless, of course, the company would lose federal funding).
The employer also attempted to use the federal law carve out defense, but that did not work. The court said that the employer could not use the carve-out language of Connecticut’s medical marijuana law.
These findings suggest that Connecticut employers may want to take a second look at their drug policies and make adjustments. Medical marijuana patients in Connecticut may not bring to or use their medicine at work or during work hours. Changes to pre-employment drug testing policies are also suggested as a medical marijuana patient is obviously going to test positive. If they qualify for the job, they have to be given an equal opportunity.