DETROIT -- A man who uses medical marijuana to treat symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor and cancer claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday he was wrongfully fired from a Walmart store in Battle Creek after testing positive for the drug.
Joseph Casias was fired last year after five years on the job despite being legally registered to use the drug under Michigan's medical marijuana law, according to the lawsuit against the world's largest retailer in state court.
Casias said he didn't use marijuana at work or come to work under the influence. Scott Michelman, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the lawsuit aims to test the extent that Michigan's law protects employees.
"No patient should be forced to choose between adequate pain relief and gainful employment, and no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in consultation with their doctors," Michelman said.
Michigan voters approved medical marijuana use in 2008. Federal law still prohibits the sale and cultivation of the drug.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said in a statement that it is an "unfortunate situation all around." It said it is sympathetic to Casias' condition, but said it is an issue of customer and employee safety.
"The doctor prescribed treatment was not the relevant issue. The issue is about the ability of our associates to do their jobs safely," the company said. "As more states allow this treatment, employers are left without any guidelines except the federal standard."
Casias' drug test was given after he injured his knee at work in November, but the positive result on the urine test only indicated drug use in recent days or weeks, according to the lawsuit in Calhoun County Circuit Court. Casias said the injury had nothing to do with marijuana use; he simlply stepped the wrong way.
"I just want the opportunity to continue my work," Casias, of Battle Creek, said in a statement.