Medical Marijuana, Migraines, and Disability Discrimination

- Patrick Jordan

Recently, there have been many changes in various state laws regarding the use of medical marijuana and recreational use of marijuana. These changes have caused a chain reaction in employment discrimination lawsuits by patients that use medical marijuana to manage chronic medical conditions.

Medical Marijuana and Migraine Treatment

Most recently, a Rhode Island fabrics company has been sued by the ACLU on behalf of a graduate student who claims she is being discriminated against because she is a registered medical marijuana user. According to the complaint, she was denied an internship with the company after they learned of her status as a user.

The student, who uses medical marijuana to deal with her frequent and debilitating migraine headaches, informed the company of this issue during her interview. However, during the interview, she informed human resources that she would not bring the substance on the premises or use it before coming to work.

Despite these assurances, the company decided not to offer her the internship allegedly because she was a registered medical marijuana user.

The ACLU’s Argument

The ACLU decided to take the case and has argued that denying the student the internship, simply based on her status as a registered medical marijuana user, constitutes disability discrimination because of her chronic migraine condition. This discrimination is in direct violation of the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act.

The student and her attorneys have maintained the position that employers should treat those with disabilities, including those who are legally licensed to use marijuana, the same way as other people with disabilities. As such, those individuals should not be discriminated against because of their choice in medication.

Migraine as a Disability

Though some judicial circuits have found migraines to be a disability required protection under disability discrimination laws, others have found this not to be the case. For example, the Tenth Circuit held that an individual who was diagnosed with migraine headaches was not considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act – the seminal law addressing issues for those with disabilities in the workplace.

While it remains to be seen how issues such as medical marijuana and disabilities such as migraines will play out in the legal system, it is safe to say there is a split on both sides.

If you are suffering from disability discrimination at your place of employment, the Jordan Law Group can help. We have been handling these types of cases for many years, and we know this is a tough and stressful time for you.

We welcome your call to our office at (415) 459-9865.