For Immediate Release
ACLU Sues Wal-Mart On Behalf Of Cancer Patient Fired For Legally Using Medical Marijuana
Michigan State Law Passed In 2008 Protects Employees Who Use Marijuana To Treat Debilitating Diseases
BATTLE CREEK, MI - The American Civil Liberties Union and
ACLU of Michigan, in partnership with the law firm of Daniel W. Grow,
PLLC, filed a lawsuit today against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and the
manager of its Battle Creek store for wrongfully firing an employee for
using medicinal marijuana in accordance with state law to treat the
painful symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor and cancer.
The lawsuit charges that Joseph
Casias, 30, the Battle Creek Wal-Mart's 2008 Associate of the Year, was
fired from his job at the store after testing positive for marijuana,
despite being legally registered to use the drug under Michigan's
medical marijuana law. In accordance with state law, Casias never
ingested marijuana while at work and never worked while under the
influence of marijuana.
"Medical marijuana has had a
life-changing positive effect for Joseph, but Wal-Mart made him pay a
stiff and unfair price for his medicine," said Scott Michelman, staff
attorney with the ACLU. "No patient should be forced to choose between
adequate pain relief and gainful employment, and no employer should be
allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in
consultation with their doctors."
Casias has suffered for more than a
decade from sinus cancer and a brain tumor in the back of his head and
neck that was the size of a softball when it was first diagnosed. His
condition has forced him to endure extensive treatment and chemotherapy,
interferes with his ability to speak and is a source of severe and
constant pain. Nonetheless, he had been successfully employed for more
than five years by Wal-Mart in Battle Creek, where he began as an
entry-level grocery stocker in 2004 and worked his way up to inventory
"For some people, working at Wal-Mart
is just a job, but for me, it was a way of life," said Joseph. "I came
to Wal-Mart for a better opportunity for my family and I worked hard and
proved myself. I just want the opportunity to continue my work."
In 2008, Michigan voters enacted the
Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which provides protection for the
medical use of the drug under state law. The pain medication Casias'
oncologist had previously prescribed for him provided only minimal
relief and as a side effect caused Casias to suffer from severe nausea.
After the law was enacted, Joseph's oncologist recommended that he try
marijuana as permitted by state law, and so Casias obtained the
appropriate registry card from the Michigan Department of Community
Health. The results were immediate and profound: his pain decreased
dramatically, the new medicine did not induce nausea and Casias was able
to gain back some of the weight he had lost during treatment.
"Joseph is exactly the kind of person
whom Michigan voters had in mind when they passed the state's medical
marijuana law," said Daniel W. Grow, a St. Joseph, Michigan-based
attorney. "Medical marijuana is legal in this state because voters
recognized its ability to alleviate the pain, nausea and other symptoms
associated with debilitating medical conditions, and no corporation
doing business in Michigan should be permitted to flout state law."
Michigan's medical marijuana law
protects patients registered with the state of Michigan from "arrest,
prosecution, or penalty in any manner" for the use of medicinal
marijuana as prescribed by a doctor and also protects employees from
being disciplined for their use of medical marijuana in accordance with
the law. The law does not require employers to accommodate the ingestion
of marijuana in the workplace and does not protect employees who work
under the influence of the drug.
The outcome of today's lawsuit, filed
in Calhoun County Circuit Court, could have ramifications beyond
"Today, 14 states and the District of
Columbia provide protections for patients who use marijuana as
recommended by a doctor," said Kary L. Moss, Executive Director of the
ACLU of Michigan. "This case will be closely watched by patients across
the country who rely on this medicine for pain relief and on their state
laws for protection against unscrupulous employers."
Lawyers on the case include Grow,
Michelman, Moss and Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg of the ACLU of
A copy of the today's complaint is
available online at: www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform/
Additional information about the
ACLU's work to reform drug laws is available online at: www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform
Additional information about the ACLU
of Michigan is available online at: www.aclumich.org
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.