Connecticut Medical Marijuana User Could Not Proceed with ADA Claims

By Stacey J. Lococo © Jackson Lewis March 31, 2021
LIKE SAVE
marijuana in a prescription bottle

The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut dismissed employment discrimination claims asserted under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with regard to state authorized medical marijuana use. Eccleston v. City of Waterbury, No. 3:19-cv-1614, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52835 (D. Conn. Mar. 22, 2021).

The employee was employed as a firefighter by the city. His employment was terminated after he tested positive for marijuana on a random drug test. The employee argued that his test result should have been treated as a negative because he had a Connecticut Registration Certificate for medical marijuana use; however, the city discharged him due to his use of marijuana "such that it has endangered the health and wellbeing of others."

The employee filed a federal action for disability discrimination under both the ADA and state medical marijuana laws. The city moved to dismiss the employee's ADA claims arguing that the statute specifically excludes "any employee . . . who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when the covered entity acts on the basis of such use." Id. (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12111(6); 21 U.S.C. § 812(b)(1)(a)-(c)).  The court noted that the ADA relies on the federal Controlled Substances Act to define "illegal drug use," and under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is an illegal drug.

The city further argued that the employee's marijuana use did not qualify for ADA protection under the supervision of a physician exception because the use of marijuana is still strictly prohibited under federal law. The court agreed with the city and concluded that the employee's state-sanctioned use of medical marijuana was not protected by the ADA.

The court further held that the employee failed to state a claim for discrimination based upon the illness underlying his medical marijuana state certification because he did not claim that he ever informed his employer of the medical condition.

Additionally, the employee asserted that his state certification to use medical marijuana entitled him to the reasonable accommodation of testing positive for marijuana with impunity. The court again disagreed, citing to several federal cases which relied upon the Controlled Substances Act's "classification of marijuana as a Schedule I illegal substance to conclude that using marijuana is not a reasonable accommodation."

With regard to the employee's retaliation claim, the court held that merely indicating to his employer that he was considering obtaining a medical marijuana card did not qualify as a protected activity under the ADA.

Accordingly, the court dismissed the employee's federal claims under the ADA and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. The state law claims were therefore dismissed without prejudice so the employee may refile in state court.

Stacey J. Lococo is an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Melville, N.Y. © 2021 Jackson Lewis. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. 

LIKE SAVE

SHRM HR JOBS

Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Member Benefit: Ask-An-Advisor Service

SHRM's HR Knowledge Advisors offer guidance and resources to assist members with their HR inquiries.

SHRM's HR Knowledge Advisors offer guidance and resources to assist members with their HR inquiries.

REACH OUT NOW

SPONSOR OFFERS

HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.