Monday, March 15, 2010

Medical Marijuana Patient Protests After Being Fired for Drug Use

BATTLE CREEK - Joseph Casias says he was unfairly fired from Wal-Mart
after he tested positive for a controlled substance. He's a registered
medical marijuana patient.

He says he's battled sinus cancer and a brain tumor for eleven years.
Most of the time, he's treated his pain with a concoction of pain
killers. But when Michigan legalized marijuana for medical purposes, he
signed up. Casias is one of the state's 10,022 registered patients.

In the fall of 2009, Casias fell while on the job. He says Wal-Mart
required him to take a drug test, which came back positive for a
controlled substance. Casias was fired.

On Sunday, dozens of people protested outside of Wal-Mart, saying what
the company did wasn't legal. But a spokesperson for the retailer
disagrees. The company says the test don't say which drug was found in
Casias' system; all it shows is that a controlled substance was found,
which is a violation of its drug-free policy.

The Michigan Community Health Department, which oversees the program,
says if an employee is taking marijuana for medical purposes, they
cannot be terminated for drug use. However, the health department
doesn't get involved in legal matters, and a spokesperson says if Casias
wants his job back, he'll probably have to get a lawyer.,0,464792\


Rally for fired medical pot patient

Joseph Casias tested positive for marijuana

Updated: Sunday, 14 Mar 2010, 11:46 PM EDT
Published : Sunday, 14 Mar 2010, 6:00 PM EDT

By Dani Carlson\

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) - A rally was held Sunday in support of
Joseph Casias, a registered medical marijuana user and cancer patient
who was terminated from his job at Walmart late last year.

Casias, a five-year employee, was fired after testing positive for a
controlled substance: marijuana.

"If I take a medication that I have a legal right to take, why should I
lose my job for that?" Casias said. "Especially when I gave everything I
had for them (to) try to be a role model employee."

He has a prescription for the drug and said he uses it for pain from
sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor he has been suffering from
for the past 10 years. Marijuana is one of the only things that can help
get him through the tough times, he said.

Casias didn't use marijuana on the job or before work during his years
at Walmart, he said. He hurt himself on the job, and after that, had a
routine drug test.

That's when the controlled substance was detected. He told 24 Hour News
8 he showed his managers his medical marijuana card, but eventually was
fired anyway.

"I'm just trying to control my pain," Casias said. "That's the only
thing I'm trying to do here -- control my pain. I'm not an abuser of the
drug or anything like that."

He said he shouldn't have been fired in a state where medical marijuana
is legal.

The law on the issue isn't crystal clear. According to the text of the
law at, it says people using medical marijuana "shall not
be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied
any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or
disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional
licensing board or bureau, for the medical use of marihuana in
accordance with this act."

But later on, it says, "Nothing in this act shall be construed to
require ... An employer to accommodate ... any employee working while
under the influence of marihuana."

Casias and dozens of supporters gathered outside the Battle Creek
Walmart, where Casias used to work, to protest. The group wanted him to
get his job back, receive an apology from Walmart and a change in

However, Casias said even if Walmart offered him his job back, he's not
sure he would take it. At this point, he and his family are debating how
far they will take this fight, he said.

"In states such as Michigan, where prescriptions for marijuana can be
obtained, an employer can still enforce a policy that requires
termination of employment following a positive drug screen," said Anna
Taylor, of Walmart Corporate Communications in an e-mail. "We believe
our policy complies with the law and we support decisions based on the

Walmart should change its policy, Casias said.

"I think employees should be judged by the quality of their work, not
the quality of their urine," said Greg Francisco, a protestor and the
executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association. He
told 24 Hour News 8 the ACLU is aware of this issue.

"(It's) overwhelming and I feel very blessed at the same time that all
these people gave up their time to fight for this effort," Casias said.

Casias said Walmart is trying to challenge his unemployment benefits. He
has a phone hearing scheduled at the end of March.

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