How Medical Marijuana is Costing People Their Jobs


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Joseph Casias is a marijuana user.

He also suffers from a rare form of cancer that has invaded his nasal cavity and brain. To help with the pain, Casias was given marijuana by his doctors. He’s just one of the many weed users in the United States.

Colorado ushered 2013 with the legalization of recreational marijuana. And that just fueled the debates that have been raging for the better part of the last half a century or so. Colorado citizens are saying they’re very happy with its success. But the whole recreational marijuana debacle overshadowed one other weed fact.

That fact is medical marijuana has been legalized for longer and in more places.

To date, 20 states and DC have voted to enact legislations legalizing medical marijuana use. California paved the way in 1996. Two years later, Alaska, Oregon and Washington followed suit. The following year, Maine also passed a “Yes” vote, with possession limited to 2.5 usable ounces, or about 6 plants.

By the new millennium, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont all passed similar legislations with varying possession limits.

Many proponents rejoiced. After all, they claim that weed has been helping alleviate ailments from as far back as ancient China and Egypt.

The Many Benefits of Medicinal Weed

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They say the lowly hemp plant can help with a variety of health issues. And experts who used to be against it, like CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, were quick to change their stance once research came out to support these claims.

Here are some of the supposed medical benefits of pot:

1. Helps stop the spread of HIV

Scientists found out that receiving daily doses of THC, weed’s active component, stopped the spread of HIV in monkeys. They also had higher levels of healthy cells.

2. Weed is effective against Alzheimer’s.

Even actor Seth Rogen agrees. So much so that he went to the US Senate to speak about it. Cannabis can supposedly block enzymes that lead to the progression of Alzheimer’s. It’s also beneficial in preventing protein clumps that inhibit cognition and memory.

3. Pot slows the spread of cancer cells.

You’ve already heard of weed relieving pain. Casias is proof of that. And more than just with cancer, it also helps manage pain caused by multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and migraines.

But more than that, UK research has shown that marijuana compounds can kill cancer cells in people with leukemia. Another study indicated that it can stop the metastasis of some aggressive cancers. Cannabinoids reduce cell viability and arrest all phases of the cell cycle.

4. It’s a powerful tool against depression, anxiety and ADHD.

People who regularly partake of weed have shown lower levels of depressive symptoms. It also relieved anxiety and ADHD symptoms when taken in small doses.

5. Weed helped with fixing neurological damages.

Marijuana supposedly has neuroprotective qualities. That means it can limit the damage incurred after a stroke or trauma.

The above are just 5 benefits. There are studies all over the place that will likely tell you how it also works with Tourette’s, glaucoma, diabetes and a whole lot of other diseases. And let’s be honest, if we just look at these data and nothing else, legalizing marijuana for medical use seems like a real no-brainer, right?

Weed is Weed, Medicinal or Not

Unfortunately, many companies seem to take that stand. Weed is weed. Medicinal use notwithstanding, it’s still some sort of drug that’s mighty illegal in more places than not.

Sadly, that’s exactly why Casias lost his job at WalMart in 2009. He failed a drug test. He got the boot. So what if he’s using marijuana for medicinal purposes? So what if it’s technically legal in Michigan? The nation’s biggest retailer didn’t care.

Casias insists he never came to work while high. He even has a medical marijuana card to prove he’s not just toking to get high. Five years of employment and an Associate of the Year award the previous year was no match for failing that all-important drug test.

In a sick twist of fate, legislation allowed for medicinal marijuana use but failed to protect workers from employers’ drug policies.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), headquartered in Washington, receives over 300 e-mails and phone calls a year. They’re mostly from weed users who have been fired. Some had job offers rescinded after failing drug tests.

Keith Stroup, NORML legal counsel team member, say people “talk about how they have lost their job.” But he “tell(s) them there’s not a thing they can do about it.”

Just how many people have lost their jobs or at risk of losing them? Unfortunately, there isn’t any data to give a ballpark figure. Employers hardly come out to say they have terminated workers for using doctor-prescribed cannabis. And the people who were let go fear letting the public know lest they lose further job opportunities.

Suffice to say, in Michigan alone, over 10,000 people have medical marijuana cards. Is it safe to assume they’re all at risk of losing their jobs soon enough?

The Employer-Employee Conundrum

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If employers in states where medicinal marijuana is legal know that it is, why are they even pushing for drug testing at all?

The simple answer? Employers pay employees to be efficient, dependable and hardworking. Unfortunately, using pot doesn’t necessarily make you any of the above. In fact, weed has been known to make you disoriented, among other less than less beneficial effects.

Not many employers can believe that a person smoking weed can perform their jobs well enough to not warrant disciplinary actions.

It doesn’t help that the legal system seems to support the employers over their workers. Take the case of an Air Force veteran who was prescribed weed for his chronic back pain. He was fired after testing positive for marijuana. He sued.

The California Supreme Court ruled the private company can fire him and left many legal experts fretting.

For people like Joseph Casias, the system really does seem unfairly leaning towards the establishment. There just doesn’t seem to be any workaround against getting screwed. Don’t take weed, live in chronic pain. Take weed and lose your job.

“I just want my job back,” he said. Well buddy, that doesn’t look like an easy battle now, does it?

 

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