The court ruling came in a lawsuit filed by a Dimondale woman, who had claimed that the Lansing Board of Water and Light rescinded a job offer after she tested positive for marijuana, even though she had a medical marijuana card.
The case involved Angela Eplee, who was conditionally offered a job at the Lansing Board of Water and Light in 2017, as long as she passed a drug test. When her test came back positive for THC — tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient that results in the “high” associated with pot — the board withdrew the offer of employment even after finding out that she had a medical marijuana card that allows her to use marijuana.
The board denied the positive drug test was the reason for withdrawing the offer, rather “the needs of the department” dictated the decision.
The woman sued, but the trial court agreed with the board and dismissed the case before it went to trial. That decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals.
In the opinion published Tuesday, the three-judge panel said, the “plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that she had any right or property interest of any manner in employment with the BWL. Plaintiff has also failed to demonstrate that there was any prohibition —statutory or otherwise — on the BWL’s ability to withdraw, for any or no reason at all, its conditional offer of employment.”
“There was no discovery in this case. The city and BWL filed a motion for summary disposition in lieu of filing an answer to the initial complaint,” said Gardner, a Grand Rapids-based attorney. “I’m not really sure if the Court of Appeals had enough facts to make the legal determination that they did.”
But the ruling is important as employers navigate the legal marijuana landscape.
Michigan is about a year away from commercial sales of marijuana for adult recreational use after voters approved a ballot proposal legalizing weed by a 56-44 percent margin in November.
The wording of the ballot proposal legalizing weed for recreational use was clear: “This act does not require an employer to permit or accommodate conduct otherwise allowed by this act in any workplace or on the employer’s property. This act does not prohibit an employer from disciplining an employee for violation of a workplace drug policy or for working while under the influence of marijuana. This act does not prevent an employer from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s violation of a workplace drug policy or because that person was working while under the influence of marijuana.”
And the medical marijuana laws also don’t provide protections for cardholders, the Court of Appeals said in its opinion.
“The statute does not provide an independent right protecting the medical use of marijuana in all circumstances, nor does it create a protected class for users of medical marijuana,” it ruled.
Case law on the issue is mixed for an employee’s right to use marijuana, even if the person has a medical marijuana card. In the case of Joseph Casias, a medical marijuana cardholder from Battle Creek who used cannabis to treat the symptoms of sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor, his job as an inventory control manager at WalMart was lost because of a positive drug test after he suffered a workplace injury in 2009.
He was fired, even though he wasn’t high at work and never used marijuana while working. Casias sued, but the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of WalMart in 2012, saying that the state’s medical marijuana law couldn’t dictate the actions of a private employer.
On another level, however, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that an employer can’t disqualify a person from receiving unemployment benefits if the person tests positive for marijuana while holding a medical marijuana card. That employee can be disqualified from receiving benefits, however, if the person uses marijuana at work, is under the influence of marijuana at work or can’t demonstrate that he or she is a medical marijuana patient.