Rhode Island Woman Sues Over MMJ Discrimination

Rhode Islander

Do you have a right to smoke marijuana? What about if you have a medical condition? Is medical marijuana a right or is it just another treatment option? Although medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, few states have laws in place to protect patients; and consequently thousands of patients every year suffer discrimination and persecution at the hands of employers.

One such case is the story of Christine Callaghan. Callaghan is currently engaged in a lawsuit against Darlington Fabrics Corp. and its parent, the Moore Company, for refusing to hire her because of her status as a medical marijuana patient.

According to the Associated Press, Callaghan was attending the University of Rhode Island and she was at the point in her Master’s Degree program where she had to seek out an internship. One of her professors was able to get her in contact with Darlington Fabrics Corp. and arranged an interview.

Callaghan claims Darlington Fabrics intended to hire her for the paid internship, but when she met with the company’s human resource department and disclosed that she used medical marijuana for her severe chronic headaches she was told, “they could not employ Callaghan because of her status as a medical marijuana patient.”

As a result, Callaghan’s ability to graduate on time was jeopardized and she was forced to disclose her medical condition to her professors. Callaghan claims that the actions of Darlington Fabrics violate Rhode Island state law. Callaghan is fortunate. She is in one of the few states that actually provide legal protection to their medical marijuana patients. Most states are lucky to even pass medical marijuana, much less extend legal protection from discrimination.

When this case goes to court, Darlington Fabrics will have a difficult time because in this particular case, the language of the law is unambiguous.

According to Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law:

“A qualifying patient … shall not be … denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for the medical use of marijuana.”

It seems clear that Darlington Fabrics violated state law and when this case goes to court it should be relatively simple for the judge. Sadly, that is not the case elsewhere. In Colorado, where marijuana is 100 percent legal, a man by the name of Brandon Coates was fired once his employer found out he smoked medical marijuana. There is no state law to protect him, and his lawsuit stands on shakier ground.

As an investor, you may wonder why you should care about these kinds of cases. The answer is simple: these are your customers being prosecuted for using your product. If people are afraid to consume medical marijuana because they don’t want to lose their job, that hurts your bottom line.

One can only hope that Callaghan and Coates will be able to win their cases and help establish a precedent to help protect medical marijuana patients. If nothing is done to protect patients like them, then marijuana legalization is, as Callaghan’s attorney puts it, nothing but “an empty promise.”

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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