You can decide for yourself whether this falls under the category of good news or bad news. It’s a story we’ve dealt with here before, though no clear solution ever seems to present itself. What happens when your state legalizes either medical or recreational marijuana but the federal government still considers such use a serious crime and your employer fires you over it? A number of cases have already been heard and the majority have gone against the employee. But last week in Connecticut, one went the other way. And this was a case of medical marijuana use by someone who hadn’t even started on the job yet. (Associated Press)
Health care worker Katelin Noffsinger told a potential employer that she took medical marijuana to deal with the effects of a car accident, but when a drug test came back positive, the nursing home rescinded her job offer anyway.
A federal judge last month ruled that the nursing home, which had cited federal laws against pot use, violated an anti-discrimination provision of the Connecticut’s medical marijuana law.
It was the latest in a series of clashes between U.S. and state laws around the country that came out in favor of medical marijuana users trying to keep or obtain jobs with drug-testing employers.
This wasn’t a situation where an applicant was refused the job. Ms. Noffsinger had already been hired, but it was conditional, requiring her to pass a drug screening test. She had already told her employer that she would fail the marijuana portion of the screening because of her medicinal marijuana use, but when the results came back the job offer was rescinded.
Noffsinger’s victory in court didn’t actually get her anything in terms of punitive damages nor even an order to give her the job back. It’s primarily a moral victory unless she prevails in a pending civil suit for compensatory damages over lost wages.
No matter which side you may be cheering for in this, nobody comes out looking like a winner. The nursing home where Noffsinger applied for work has several federal contracts they rely on to stay in business and was concerned that the federal government could terminate their contracts if they hired someone who failed the drug screening. The judge disagreed, saying that the question revolved around state law and Noffsinger had been denied a job solely on the basis of using a legally prescribed substance. The nursing home was truly left between a rock and a hard place.
What we’re seeing here is yet another example of the patchwork laws around the nation and how they complicate everyone’s lives. This is going to continue as long as we maintain this unique situation where state and federal government have directly conflicting laws. I don’t know that supremacy is the answer here because then you’re undercutting the rights of the individual states. But asking the feds to entirely back out of the drug enforcement business doesn’t seem like a wise path to follow either.
Anyone have any suggestions? I’m certainly out of ideas at this point.