In 2014, Cristina Barbuto of Brewster, Massachusetts, accepted a position with Advantage Sales and Marketing. After only one day of employment, the company terminated Barbuto upon receiving her marijuana-positive drug test results. Barbuto, who reportedly suffers from Crohn’s Disease, was legally prescribed medical marijuana under state law prior to her date of hire.
She later filed suit; accusing the company of handicap discrimination. Advantage Sales and Marketing argued that she could not sue because marijuana possession is an illegal offense under federal law. However, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected this argument and granted Barbuto permission to sue on July 17, 2017. In their ruling, the Court cited the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Act , stating patients shall not be denied "any right or privilege" due to marijuana use.
The ruling came as a surprise to many legal experts. In a statement to MassLive.com , Littler Mendelson shareholder Dale Deitchler said, "I can't stress this enough, it's the first case of its kind in the country." Deitchler went on to say, "Massachusetts is not a state where such protections are written in the law so this is really significant … The court created law."
With the expansion of medical and recreational marijuana laws throughout the country, employers are wise to take note. The legal community and industry experts agree, this case may open the floodgates for similar rulings in the future. It is recommended employers consult their legal counsel if they believe this or similar rulings may affect their organizations.
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