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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wal-Mart's firing of employee for using medical marijuana incites boycott

By Troy Reimink | The Grand Rapids Press



Joseph Casais, 29, was fired from a Battle Creek Wal-Mart for using medical marijuana. He suffers from sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor.

Supporters of marijuana law reform are rallying behind 29-year-old Joe Casais, a cancer sufferer and registered medical marijuana user who was fired from his job at Wal-Mart in Battle Creek.

Casais, who had worked at the store for five years and in 2008 was named Associate of the Year, tested positive for marijuana during a worker's compensation screening after he sprained his knee on the job.

Marijuana advocates are calling for a boycott of the chain, and recently a rally took place in support of Casais:

Beyond the immediate fallout from the boycott -- such as a sharp decline in the sale of snack foods -- the story raises questions about how employers are to reconcile their drug policies with laws regarding the use of marijuana, particularly medical marijuana.

Wal-Mart wants no part of it. In a statement, a company spokesman 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. We believe our policy complies with the law and we support decisions based on the policy."

It may be legal, but is it the right thing to do?

"It's despicable that Wal-Mart would fire such a hardworking and seriously ill employee simply for treating his symptoms with a medicine that he is authorized to use under state law," Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project and lead drafter of Michigan's medical marijuana law, told the Michigan Messenger. "Would Wal-Mart also fire someone for taking doctor-prescribed Percocet, or any of the other legal medications sold in many of Wal-Mart's own stores?"

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan also sides with Casais, telling the publication, "It's immoral and it's illegal to fire somebody for treating their disease with a medicine that's legal and recommended by someone's physician."

Wal-Mart also is contesting Casais' unemployment benefits claim since any marijuana use still is a violation of federal law, even if states are allowing it in some cases. The Obama administration said it will not seek to prosecute marijuana users who are in compliance with state law. Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2008.

What do you think of Wal-Mart's actions here?



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