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Rhode Island court rules employer who refused to hire medical marijuana user violated state law

A judge ruled Darlington Fabrics Corp. violated Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law, the Hawkins-Slater Act, when it refused to hire a medical marijuana user because she could not pass a pre-employment drug test.

The Hawkins-Slater Act states, “No school, employer, or landlord may refuse to enroll, employ, or lease to, or otherwise penalize, a person solely for his or her status as a cardholder.”

Judge Richard Licht ruled that the aforementioned portion of the state’s law would be rendered illusory if he were to rule in favor of the defendants as it would simply allow employers to refuse to hire medical marijuana users by simply implementing a facially neutral pre-employment drug testing policy.

“This practice would place a patient who, by virtue of his or her condition, has to use medical marijuana once or twice a week in a worse position than a recreational user,” the judge wrote. “The recreational user could cease smoking long enough to pass the drug test and get hired, and subsequently not be subject to future drug tests, allowing him or her to smoke recreationally to his or her heart’s content. The medical user, however, would not be able to cease for long enough to pass the drug test, even though his or her use is necessary to treat or alleviate the pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with debilitating medical conditions.”

Source: Bloomberg Law, 5/26/2017

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