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Medical Marijuana and Job Loss

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Atlanta, GAAccording to media reports people are losing their jobs - are being fired - for using medical marijuana.

A recent report on CNN.com details the story of a 29-year old Michigan man who was fired from his job at Wal-Mart after failing a drug test. Joseph Casias has a rare form of cancer that affects his nasal cavity and brain. His doctor prescribed marijuana to help Joseph handle the pain - and Joseph states that he never came to work high. In fact in 2008 he earned an Associate of the Year Award. He wants his job back: he told CNN that he thought he was part of the Wal-Mart family and is angry over the loss of his job. Worse, as a result of losing his job he has accrued $10,000 in unpaid medical bills and can no longer afford his cancer treatments.

Currently, 14 states have laws allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and while the existing laws protect people in those states from criminal charges related to the use of the drug, the laws don't protect them from penalties enforced by employers.

Tens of thousands of people may be at risk for losing their jobs as a result of their marijuana prescription. According to the report on CNN, 37,000 authorized medical marijuana cards have been issued in California - the first state to legalize its use - since 2004. In Michigan, where Joseph lives, there are approximately 18,000 registered users.

Not surprisingly, people who may have lost their jobs as a result of failing company drug tests or other corporate policies, may be afraid to come forward because of the associated stigma, so there is no way to know how many people may already have been victimized.

While the law in California does not currently protect employees against job loss related to medical marijuana use, the laws in Michigan are different. In 2008, the state passed a law which states that a patient carrying a medical marijuana card cannot be "denied any right or privilege" by a "business or occupational or professional licensing board."

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