Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Protects Employees Who Use Medicinal Marijuana

Prior to July 17, 2017, most employers in Massachusetts assumed that they could terminate an employee who tested positive for marijuana, even if they were licensed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.  Employers, and most attorneys, felt this way because marijuana use remained illegal under federal law, despite its recreational and medicinal uses being legal under state law.

That all changed with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's decision in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing LLC.  In that case, the Supreme Judicial Court reversed a lower court's decision to dismiss an employee's claim that her termination for testing positive for marijuana amounted to unlawful disability discrimination.  The employee, in that case, suffered from Crohn's disease and was licensed to use medical marijuana for treatment purposes.  Shortly after being hired, she tested positive for marijuana and was terminated according to a company policy that required terminations for positive drug tests.  The Court decided that it could be reasonable, in some situations, to deviate from that company policy as a reasonable accommodation designed to address the employee's disability.  The case was reinstated and returned to the lower court for further proceedings.

This is an important case for employees and employers in Massachusetts, including Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Fall River, New Bedford, and the Cape.  If you are an employer or employee with questions about use of marijuana and employment law, set up a free consultation to learn more.