ACLU Supports Rights of Employees Who Lawfully Use Medical Marijuana

News Release: 
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The ACLU of Washington has filed an amicus memorandum urging the state Supreme Court to accept review of a case in which an employee was fired solely for her lawful, at home, medical use of marijuana. The ACLU believes the ruling in the case should be reviewed in order to ensure that the rights of individuals under our state’s medical marijuana law are adequately protected.

A 2009 Division II Court of Appeals decision in the case (Roe v. TeleTech) held that Washington’s medical marijuana law only protects someone from criminal prosecution and provides no protection in employment situations. Washington’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act was adopted by the state’s voters in 1998 to enable individuals suffering from specified medical conditions to use marijuana with the recommendation of their physician.

The case at issue arose from the 2006 firing of authorized medical marijuana patient Jane Roe (who is using a pseudonym to protect her identity) from a company called TeleTech Costumer Care Management. Roe was hired by TeleTech to be a customer service consultant, which required answering phones and responding to e-mails. She informed TeleTech about her medical use of marijuana during the hiring process, providing the company with a copy of her physician’s authorization. However, when Roe’s pre-employment drug screen tested positive for THC, an active ingredient of marijuana, she was fired. Roe had worked at TeleTech for over a week without issue. Roe filed suit in Kitsap County in 2007.  

“It is important that employers respect the private medical choices employees make in consultation with their physicians. As long as the job is not safety-sensitive, and the employee’s performance is not impaired, patients should not be forced to choose between a physician-authorized treatment and gainful employment,” said Alison Holcomb, ACLU of Washington Drug Policy Director.

The ACLU-WA filed a friend-of-the-court memorandum in the case urging the Washington State Supreme Court to accept review. The court will determine whether to accept review in the coming weeks.  The memorandum was written by the ACLU-WA’s Alison Holcomb and Mark Cooke.