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By Steve Birr
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made a landmark ruling on marijuana use Monday, ruling in favor of a woman fired from her job after testing positive for pot.
The ruling is a national first concerning worker protections in states with legal medical marijuana programs, which run counter to federal law. Cristina Barbuto, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, was fired from her position at Advantage Sales and Marketing in 2014 after testing positive for marijuana and filed suit against the company for discrimination in 2015, reports Massachusetts Live.
The highest court in the state gave Barbuto permission to move forward with her lawsuit Monday, taking many legal experts by surprise.
“I can’t stress this enough, it’s the first case of its kind in the country,” Dale Deitchler, an expert on marijuana issues in the workplace, told Mass Live.
Advantage Sales and Marketing followed federal law when firing Barbuto, and legal experts previously assumed a private business has the legal discretion to terminate employees for using marijuana regardless of state legalization laws.
Chief Justice Ralph Gants said it is a “reasonable accommodation” to make exceptions to a company’s drug policy if an employee is using something a doctor has medically approved for treatment.
“This is the highest court in Massachusetts recognizing that the use of medically prescribed marijuana is just as lawful as the use of any prescribed medication,” Matthew Fogelman, Barbuto’s lawyer, said Monday, according to Reuters.
Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C., where it is also legal for recreational use. Voters in Maine, Nevada, California and Massachusetts all approved measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use on election day. Roughly one in five Americans now have access to some form of legal marijuana.