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Michigan Business Group Wants to Fire Medical Marijuana Users

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce argued that businesses shouldn't be forced to ignore drug use and jeopardize workplace safety while paying unemployment for workers fired over MMJ.

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Side effects may include sudden
joblessness in Michigan. Shutterstock

By Bryan Le

03/17/14

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The Michigan Chamber of Commerce (MCC) is fighting to allow business owners to fire employees who legally use medical marijuana and bar them from receiving unemployment benefits. After county judges ruled in favor of workers who were fired for using medical marijuana, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce took the fight to appellate court.

"The Michigan Chamber is seeking a reversal of the lower court's decision because it puts employers in a no-win situation," said group chief executive Rich Studley in a statement. "If the circuit court's ruling is allowed to stand, employers will be forced to either ignore known drug use and jeopardize workplace safety or discharge those employees and pay their unemployment benefits and, subsequently, higher unemployment taxes."

Jenine Kemp, a CT scan technician, was fired from her job at the Hayes Green Meach Memorial Hospital in 2011 after a drug test revealed she had marijuana in her system. She has a state-issued medical marijuana card and eats marijuana in food after work to relieve the chronic pain she feels from lupus.

"She never showed any signs of intoxication or being under the influence. There was no indication she was using marijuana on the job," her attorney Eric Misterovich said. "The only complaints came when she talked about medical marijuana. That's what prompted the drug test."

Similarly, Rick Braska was fired from his job at Challenge Manufacturing Co. when he tested positive for marijuana in a routine drug screening. His employers fired him on the grounds that he violated the company's drug policy despite being a card-carrying registered medical marijuana user.

"This precedent-setting case is critically important to job providers across Michigan and we will continue to stand up for them by championing the position that employers' must retain the right to enforce zero-tolerance drug policies," said Jim Holcomb, chief lawyer for the MCC.

The appeals court has yet to set a date for arguments.

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