Cannabis and Drug Testing

Friends – a bit of news out of Arizona, where a Federal district court confirmed just found that Wal-Mart violated the rights of an employee by firing her after she failed a drug test showing Cannabis use. (link to opinion)

A very quick summary of the facts: Carol Whitmire, a Wal-Mart cashier, had an Arizona medical Cannabis card and smoked medical Cannabis the night before a drug test, which Wal-Mart conducted after a workplace injury in 2016 (required under Wal-Mart’s policy).  Her drug screen tested positive for “marijuana metabolites”, her claim for worker’s comp was denied, and then she was fired for failing her drug test.  Arizona, similar to other states, has an anti-discrimination statute that prevents employers from firing employees who test positive for Cannabis unless they possessed or were under the influence on the premises or during work hours.  TLDR: the court found that this law specifically protected Ms. Whitmire and held Wal-Mart liable for discrimination. 

I’m not going to bog down your Monday morning with a lot of legal analysis, but feel free to call me if you like that sort of thing*.  This is consistent with similar rulings in other states with analogous rules, which the court notes, so this isn’t exactly something new outside of Arizona. (link)  However, it’s a good reminder that the country is both quickly and slowly** adapting to Cannabis use, both medical and recreational, and that, just like regulations on production and sales, companies also are having to figure out how to navigate all of this.  It’s also a good reminder for employers to make sure their internal policies comply with local law and properly balance the interests of the workplace with the needs of their employees.


*I’m told I’m pretty good at it.

**It’s like Schrodinger’s Cat, but less quantum physics-y.