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Could job protection for medical marijuana patients happen in California?

By in Press Enterprise on July 25, 2017

By Brooke Staggs

The highest court in Massachusetts’ recently issued a first-of-its-kind ruling, protecting medical marijuana patients from being dismissed from their jobs for testing positive for cannabis.

Though the case involves a company headquartered in Irvine, the decision in Massachusetts doesn’t have legal implications for businesses in California, according to San Diego-based labor attorney Danielle Moore. Such a court-driven change actually isn’t even possible in the Golden State, she said, since language in Proposition 64 specifically guarantees employers’ right to fire workers who test positive for pot.

Still, Moore said the decision out of Boston is an important example of courts across the country gradually “softening” their stance on marijuana — a change that could soon be felt as far away as California.

“This is really a switch,” said Moore, who’s with the national employment law firm Fisher Phillips. “As the country becomes more and more marijuana friendly, I could see that trend developing, and we could start to see some changes in the years to come.”

The Massachusetts case dates back to 2014, when Advantage Sales and Marketing fired Christina Barbuto following her first day on the job at its Boston office.

Barbuto says she told the company that she treats her Crohn’s Disease with legally obtained medical marijuana. Though she says company officials assured her it wouldn’t be a problem, she was fired after testing positive for cannabis.

Barbuto sued the company, but a Superior Court in Massachusetts dismissed the case in 2015. So she appealed.

The Irvine-based marketing agency argued the firing was justified because marijuana is illegal under federal law. And an attorney for Advantage Sales and Marketing (which does business as Advantage Solutions) tells The Boston Globe they’re “confident” that the company acted lawfully in firing Barbuto.

But on July 17, the state Supreme Judicial Court said Barbuto’s lawsuit against the company can move forward. […]    

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