ACLU medical marijuana, disability discrimination case moves forward

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Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Case

A state court judge has rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit from ACLU of Rhode Island that seeks to protect a medical marijuana patient under state disability discrimination lawsuit.

Under federal law, marijuana is Schedule 1 drug, meaning that is illegal and has no “currently accepted medical use in treatment. However, Rhode Island, like 22 other states, has passed laws protecting medical marijuana users from refusing to “enroll, employ, or lease to, or otherwise penalize, a person solely for his or her status as a (medical marijuana) cardholder.”

In June 2014, Christine Callaghan, now a University of Rhode Island graduate, was denied a summer internship with Darlington Fabrics in Westerly, Rhode Island, even though she disclosed she was a medical marijuana patient and that she would not bring any medical marijuana to work.

In November 2014, the ACLU of Rhode Island filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court on her behalf, asserting that Darlington Fabric’s actions constituted disability discrimination under the  Rhode Island Civil Rights Act.

Now that the court has rejected the state’ s motion to dismiss, the case will on to new proceedings, where the parties will be allow to conduct evidence and provide evidence defending their respective positions.

“We believe it is important to keep in mind the significance of this issue. If the defendants have their way, any of the thousands of people in Rhode Island using medical marijuana for serious medical conditions would be forced to choose between taking lawfully this medication to relieve their pain or not having a job,”  said Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, in a news release. “That is a cruel and unacceptable choice, and certainly not what the General Assembly had in mind in passing this important law.”

In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected a similar lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, finding that it was bound by marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug.