Medical Marijuana Unemployment Benefits OK For Qualified Michigan Patients

Medical Marijuana Unemployment Benefits OK For Qualified Michigan
Patients, Judge Says

The Huffington Post | By David Sands

It’s no fun getting fired, but at least Michigan medical marijuana
patients canned for state-approved pot use can still look forward to
unemployment benefits.

Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette decided Tuesday that a
state medical marijuana patient who got laid off for using the herb
could qualify for jobless benefits, overruling a state commission, the
Lansing Journal reports.

“The Judge made a well-reasoned decision,” Matthew Abel, an attorney
with the Cannabis Counsel law firm and the Executive Director of
Michigan NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws), told The Huffington Post in an email. “Even if the state
appeals, it is likely to stand.”

The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008 makes it legal for patients
suffering from a number of ailments like cancer to use the substance
as a medication, but they need to have legitimate certification from a
doctor. In August of 2012, the Michigan Compensation Appellate
Commission ruled that the MMMA “does not offer any employment
protection to card holders” and “does not regulate private
employment,” according to court documents provided by the Lansing
State Journal.

The trial revolved around the 2011 firing of Jenine Kemp, who had
worked as a CT scan technician and handled IVs at Hayes Green Beach
Memorial Hospital in Charlotte, Mich. Kemp, who suffers from
neuropathy and lupus and is a valid state medical marijuana patient,
was let go after a patient complained she had spoken about using
marijuana. After the the complaint, Kemp notified her employer she was
a marijuana patient, but subsequently failed a drug test and was

“Disqualification from unemployment benefits for use of medical
marijuana in conformity with the MMMA would amount to an impermissible
penalty… [and be] contrary to law,” Collette wrote in his court

He added that the state unemployment agency’s guidelines say
applicants should not be rejected for jobless benefits unless they’re
“in possession of marijuana while at work, under the influence of
marijuana while at work or using marijuana while at work” and that
Kemp did “not fall within any of these categories.”

However, employers are allowed to fire medical marijuana users under
state law. In a September case, Michigan appeals court upheld a
judge’s decision that Walmart employee Joseph Casias, a medical
marijuana patient who suffers from an inoperable tumor and cancer, was
not wrongfully fired when he was let go because of his pot use.

In another recent ruling, Michigan’s Supreme Court decided that
medical marijuana dispensaries aren’t allowed under the MMMA, but the
state House is currently considering legislation that would permit the
establishment and regulation of dispensaries.

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