Fighting for patients' rights in the workplace

Fighting for patients' rights in the workplace


Written by Kevin Akpan, SSDP Stories Intern

Marijuana policy reform has taken the nation by storm. The most recent midterm elections resulted in Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia joining Colorado and Washington as states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, while Florida was able to achieve the support of a 58% majority on its medical marijuana bill. As of this writing, twenty-three other states have medical marijuana laws on the books. Voters and representatives from all political ideologies are calling for an end to marijuana prohibition and unsafe access to medicine

Despite our undeniable march towards progress, some disturbing remnants of prohibition remain, even in “legal states,” including discrimination against medical marijuana patients in the workplace.

Just this week, Christine Callaghan, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, was denied an internship (this particular internship was required for credit towards her Master’s degree) because she was a registered medical marijuana patient. After promising her the position, Darlington Fabrics Corporation later told Christine that “they could not employ Callaghan because of her status as a medical marijuana patient”. The ACLU, now representing Christine, has stated that discriminating against her as a medical marijuana patient is in direct violation of state law.

Earlier this year in Albuquerque, New Mexico, military veteran Mrs. Donna Smith was terminated from her assignment at Presbyterian Healthcare Services for testing positive for marijuana, which she uses to treat her PTSD. Even after Mrs. Smith was able to provide proof that she was a legal medical marijuana patient, the company’s termination was upheld, in a direct violation of the ‘New Mexico Human Rights Act’ which protects the rights of medical marijuana patients.

Prejudices against medical marijuana patients still exist, and proper protections for medical marijuana patients are still severely lacking. We need to continue fighting for patients, even in “legal” states. We need to advocate, and possibly legislate, for proper protections and rights in the workplace.