By Steve Elliott
A Michigan appeals court ruled on Friday that workers who've been fired solely for failing a drug screen because of their legal use of medical marijuana qualify for unemployment benefits, upholding lower court rulings that the state's medical marijuana law preempts its unemployment law.
The three-judge panel found that three state courts were right to reverse a decision by the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission to deny three workers unemployment payments after they were fired for testing positive for marijuana.
The judges ruled that a provision of the state's medical marijuana law forbids penalties "in any manner" for those who use medical marijuana legally.
Because the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act trumps the Michigan Employment Security Act, the circuit courts were right to reverse the MCAC's ruling that claimants were not entitled to unemployment benefits, according to the opinion.
The decision stems from three cases in which between 2010 and 2012 three employees were fired from their jobs after allegedly violating their employers' "drug free" policies by testing positive for medical marijuana. All three had state issued cards authorizing them to legally use cannabis to treat specific medical conditions.
An administrative law judge in each of the three cases had upheld the unemployment eligibility of the employees, forklift operator Rick Braska, CT technician Jenine Kemp and furniture repair technician Stephen Kudzia.