The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that a registered medical cannabis patient who tested positive for cannabis could sue her former employer for handicap discrimination, according to a report from Reuters. Her employer had successfully argued in lower courts that they had the right to fire her because cannabis is illegal under federal law.
An attorney for Christina Barbuto, the ex-employee of Advantage Sales and Marketing who suffers from Crohn’s disease, called the ruling “a ground-breaking decision” for employees in Massachusetts.
“This is the highest court in Massachusetts recognizing that the use of medically prescribed marijuana is just as lawful as the use of any prescribed medication,” he said in the report.
Barbuto was fired following her first day on the job after failing the drug screening.
In the decision, Chief Justice Ralph Grants opined that if cannabis is prescribed by a physician, “an exception to an employer’s drug policy to permit its use is a facially reasonable accommodation.”
The six-judge panel said that the employee, not the employer, could have been federally prosecuted for Barbuto’s cannabis use, therefore allowing her to continue using cannabis therapies is not “per se unreasonable as an accommodation.”
The decision sets a legal precedent in the state and could have impacts in other states with medical cannabis programs.