The Michigan court of appeals will hear the cases of two medical marijuana patients who were fired from their jobs for smoking pot legally and then denied unemployment benefits.
Jenine Kemp, a CT scan technician who suffers from lupus, was fired in 2011 for testing positive for pot and Rick Braska, a forklift operator from Grand Rapids who uses cannabis for a bad back, tested positive in 2010 and was fired.
According to Kemp’s attorney, “She never showed any signs of intoxication … the only complaints came when she talked about medical marijuana. That’s what prompted the drug test.”
Michigan voters legalized medical cannabis in 2008.
Previously judges ruled in favor of Kemp and Braska, finding that the workers could not be denied unemployment benefits. However, the powerful, pro-business Michigan Chamber of Commerce is seeking a reversal of the lower court’s decisions.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce wants the appeals court to rule that it is legal to fire employees who legally use medicinal marijuana and to deny them unemployment benefits.
According to a Michigan Chamber of Commerce spokesman, if the court rules in favor of the workers “it puts employers in a no-win situation … employers will be forced to either ignore known drug use and jeopardize workplace safety or discharge those employees and pay their unemployment benefits and, subsequently, higher unemployment taxes.”
Unfortunately, should the court rule against the workers, it puts employees who use medical marijuana in a no-win situation as well – one that forces them to choose between their job and their medicine.