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Medical Marijuana is not Protected Under the ADA

04 Apr

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Update Applicable to:Effective date
All employers in VermontMarch 12, 2024


What happened?

On February 14, 2024, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont dismissed a plaintiff’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) discrimination and failure-to-accommodate case, holding that his medical marijuana usage was not protected under the ADA.


What are the details?

The Case

Marble Valley Regional Transit District (the employer) terminated Ivo Skoric’s (the employee) employment after he failed a random drug test. According to Skoric, he has a medical marijuana prescription to treat chronic pain and depression. Following his dismissal, Skoric sought unemployment benefits from the Vermont Department of Labor, which were denied. He sued.

Regarding the ADA claim:

(1) Marble Valley argued that Skoric could not state a claim for either disability discrimination or failure to accommodate because he alleged that he was discharged for testing positive for marijuana on a random drug test, not because of his underlying disabilities, and that Skoric was not a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA because marijuana is an illegal drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

(2) Skoric relied on a different provision of the ADA, which allows for the use of illegal drugs “taken under supervision by a licensed health care professional.” Because he has a medical marijuana card, he argued that he was using marijuana under the supervision of a doctor and thus protected by the ADA.

The Decision

The court did not agree with Skoric, and citing precedent, concluded that medical marijuana use does not fall within the supervised-use exception of the ADA.

Note that this was a federal ADA case, and, in turn, the status of marijuana was likely a more pertinent consideration for the district court. However, state courts (especially in states like Vermont that have employee-friendly marijuana laws) may come out the other way when interpreting their anti–disability discrimination laws.


Business Considerations

  • These types of claims are very fact-specific, however, numerous state courts across the country have recognized disability claims under state disability laws, and, at least in a smaller handful of states, the federal ADA, according to Ogletree Deakins law firm.
  • Be aware that depending on the state, a plaintiff asserting a state law claim in connection with termination of employment for using medical cannabis, may have a viable claim based on state law.


Resources


Source References

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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