Groundbreaking medical pot case allowed to move forward

Elias Hubbard
July 18, 2017

The state's highest court is allowing a woman to sue for being fired for using medical marijuana, reversing a superior court judge who had dismissed her 2015 suit.

This ruling affirmatively recognizing a level of worker-related protection under state medical marijuana laws. In official documentation regarding the case, the terminated employee specified that she did not use these products on a daily basis, nor did she ever consume them before or during work. A human resources representative informed her that she did not pass the drug test and that the company follows federal, not state law.

However, she was sacked in September, when she claims the business decided, "We follow federal law, not state law".

Barbuto says company officials said her marijuana use wouldn't be a problem, but she was sacked after her first day when she tested positive for marijuana.

In March, the SJC heard Barbuto's case, and today ruled that allowing the use of medical marijuana to treat her condition was not necessarily an unreasonable accommodation. "But it does not necessarily mean that the employee will prevail in proving handicap discrimination". It upheld the dismissal of other claims.

"We have not yet had the opportunity to litigate the plaintiff's remaining claim on the merits, but we are confident that our client acted in accordance with the law", Michael Clarkson, the attorney, said in a statement. On Monday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in her favor, a decision that shocked many.

Barbuto had accused Advantage Sales and Marketing of firing her after her first day of work because she tested positive for the drug, which she had been prescribed by a doctor to treat low appetite, a side effect of her Crohn's disease.

While both medical and recreational use is now allowed, workers still can not use marijuana before or during work.

"This is opening small business owners up to a ton of litigation", said Karen Harned, the executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, which filed a brief in support of Advantage in the case.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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