Under Washington State law a person cannot be prosecuted for using or possessing medical marijuana with a valid prescription. There's no law, however, that says an employer can't fire someone for doing the same thing. But once the case of "Jane Roe v TeleTech" is over, that may all change.
"Jane Roe" is not her real name, but a fake one used because she's worried about federal repercussions, since medical pot is still illegal under national drug laws.
The case began when Roe took a job at the company in 2006, informing them up front that she was a medical pot user and that she would fail a drug test if she took one. They still made her take the test, but she started the job right away, until a week later when her drug test came back positive for weed--just like she said it would.
She was fired immediately.
It's one of the many instances of Washington's hugely gray medical pot laws leading to a lawsuit. This case, however, has now reached the state's highest level of courts, so its ability to provide some clarity not only in this case, but others from now on is obvious.
The case will get started, ironically, at the same time as new efforts begin by the state Legislature--led by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles--to fundamentally overhaul medical marijuana policy across the state. If Kohl-Welles' forthcoming bill passes, it will grant new rights to pot patients in several areas, including a clause that will protect employees from termination for off-site use of prescribed weed.
The Roe case, meanwhile, is already lining up powerful support, as the American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief with the court in support of the fired woman (PDF, courtesy the P-I).
In the brief, the ACLU states:
"Permitting an employer to terminate an employee for exercising her right to choose medical marijuana as a treatment for a terminal or debilitating illness would not only discourage the very choice that (the Medical Use of Marijuana Act) provides to patients and physicians, it would intrude on the physician-patient relationship and physicians' professional judgment and discretion, and would effectively permit an employer to dictate the course of an employee's medical treatment."
Whether the state's law interpreters or its lawmakers clear up the murky pot regulations likely doesn't matter to the thousands of patients that use the drug and thousands of legal professionals that are forced to work around it.
What matters is that using medical marijuana in Washington becomes a clearly defined legal activity that leaves no one wondering what can or can't happen if they choose to take their medicine.