Arizona Federal Court Joins Connecticut and Delaware in Siding with Employees on Medical Marijuana Discrimination Claims

By Alexis Gabrielson and Johnny Wang

On February 7, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Whitmire v. Wal-Mart Stores found that an employee’s positive drug screen did not provide the employer with a “good faith basis” to believe that the plaintiff was impaired at work, and granted summary judgment, sua sponte, in favor of the plaintiff on the question of liability for her discrimination claim under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).

The AMMA states that, “a registered qualifying patient shall not be considered to be under the influence of marijuana solely because of the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana that appear in insufficient concentration to cause impairment.” A.R.S. § 36-2814(A)(3). Like many other state statutes, the AMMA also includes protections for employees against discrimination based on a positive drug screen, “unless a failure to do so would cause an employer to lose a monetary or licensing related benefit under federal law or regulations.” A.R.S. § 36-2813(B). 

In this case, the Arizona federal court sided with other federal court decisions from Delaware and Connecticut, where similar protections are in place for employees who are medical marijuana patients. Legislatures in states across the country have considered enacting legislation similar to the Arizona law, and other courts are likely to follow this decision if such legislation is passed. Employers should review their drug testing policies and be mindful of disability accommodation and interactive process requirements when disciplining employees for a positive drug test.

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