Most states have some laws concerning injured employees being found to have illegal drugs, including marijuana, found in their system during routine post-accident blood testing. In many states, including Kansas and Missouri, the employee would lose the right to benefits under the Workers Compensation Act if the amount of drugs in their blood stream reaches a certain level. Many employers also have policies that make any finding of illegal narcotics in the blood stream during mandatory drug testing cause for immediate termination.
One such employer is Wal-Mart, who recently terminated an injured Michigan employee who was found, during mandatory post-accident blood testing, to have marijuana in his system. The only catch was that the worker, a cancer patient, had a prescription from his doctor for the marijuana, since Michigan is one of about a dozen states that allow medicinal marijuana. He has a rare form of cancer in his nasal cavity and brain, which he has been fighting for a decade and the marijuana provides him with pain relief. He claims he never came to work high and only used marijuana in his off work hours. Wal-Mart claims they are sympathetic to the worker's plight, but they need to put the safety of their customers and other employees first.
Many other states are considering legalizing pot for medical reasons, and legislators in both Kansas and Missouri have recently introduced bills to legalize the use of medicinal marijuana. So this raises the question, should an employer be able to terminate an employee who is lawfully using marijuana? And should there be an exception to the workers compensation laws dealing with drug intoxication for those who are using marijuana for medical reasons?
The ACLU has now filed a lawsuit in Michigan against Wal-Mart challenging the termination of the injured employee. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this lawsuit, and to see how other states that either currently do, or will in the future, legalize medicinal marijuana, will deal with this thorny issue. In the meanwhile, if you have been injured in either Kansas or Missouri, and tested positive for drugs, there are very specific rules that will determine whether, and to what extent, you will be entitled to benefits under workers compensation. An experienced Kansas City workers compensation attorney can explain your rights to you and answer your questions.