Court of Appeals says You can Still Draw Unemployment
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that any employee fired for the legal use of medical marijuana would still be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. For those in favor of legally using marijuana, this would be considered another win in the ongoing legal battle between the two rival sides of this argument.
The rulings made by three different lower Michigan courts were upheld in this Court of Appeals ruling. It essentially means that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act overrules the state’s employment act. This is because the medical marijuana law states that as long as the individual using it is following the law, it makes no difference what the employer’s policies are on drugs. They are forbidden to penalize someone who was using medical marijuana within the confines of the law.
What does it mean to use marijuana legally in Michigan? It means that you must have a patient card issued by a doctor, for something that is on the state’s list of qualifying conditions. For example, this could be glaucoma, epilepsy, or PTSD. Also, you must get your medical marijuana from a grower who is licensed by the state and produces medical marijuana in a legal manner. You may not have more than two and one-half ounces of usable marijuana with you at any time. You may not operate a vehicle while under the influence of medical marijuana.
This recent ruling comes as a result of the attorney general’s office claiming that while the state’s medical marijuana law does protect people from criminal prosecution, it does not protect them from being penalized in a civil dispute. But the court has spoken, saying that the “…plain language of the MMMA’s immunity clause states that claimants shall not suffer a penalty for their medical use of marijuana.”
The underlying cause of the ruling was three separate incidents that took place between 2010 and 2012. During this time three people were fired from their jobs because their use of medical marijuana violated the employer’s drug free policies. Apparently all three tested positive during drug tests required by their jobs, not from coming to work while under the influence of marijuana.
Because their use of marijuana was in keeping with the state’s law, and none of the three were accused of using medical marijuana while at their place of employment, the court has ruled that they may not be denied unemployment benefits after being fired. It is currently legal in Michigan for an employer to require that their employees not be under the influence of any drugs while performing job duties. It is also legal to have a “drug free” policy. But it is not legal, says the court, to deny an individual unemployment benefits after they have been terminated for the legal use of medical marijuana.