The ADA Does Not Protect Medical Marijuana Use

Posted by Jeanine Gagliardi on Thu, 06/07/2012 - 22:25

In addition to protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination in employment, the ADA prohibits entities from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in the provision of public services. There are, however, limits. In a recent California case concerning public services, a U.S. Court of Appeals held that medical marijuana use is not protected by the ADA. Although the case arose outside of the employment context, the holding is instructive for employers.

California law permits residents to use marijuana for medical purposes. Two California cities in which facilities distribute medical marijuana have acted to close the facilities. Three “severely disabled” Californians who use the facilities to obtain medical marijuana sued the cities, claiming that the efforts to close the facilities violate the ADA’s preclusion of public services discrimination.

The trial court rejected the patients’ claim, and the appellate court agreed. The ADA expressly states that an individual engaged in the illegal use of drugs is not an individual with a disability under the Act. Although medical marijuana use is permitted by California state law, it remains illegal under federal law. For this reason, the ADA does not protect against discrimination on the basis of medical marijuana use. In the employment context, the court’s holding means that firing an employee because of marijuana use, regardless of any given reason, does not violate the ADA.

Call Today (301) 657-8184

 Google+  View Edward Sharkey's profile on LinkedIn