Michigan appeals court: Medical pot patient can be denied job

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Byron Township, south of Grand Rapids, has an ordinance that bars registered caregivers from growing marijuana at a commercial property. The state appeals court said the ordinance conflicts with Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

A Dimondale woman whose employment offer was rescinded after a positive marijuana screen may appeal her case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

An appellate panel ruled this week that Michigan’s medical marijuana law did not protect Angela Eplee from the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s workplace drug rules.

The Michigan Court of Appeals panel ruled 3-0 that the Lansing utility was within its rights when it rescinded a 2017 conditional offer of employment to medical marijuana patient Eplee after she tested positive in a THC screen.

Eplee is considering whether to move forward with an appeal, her lawyer Brandon Gardner said. The Grand Rapids lawyer said it’s premature to consider the decision a precedent in Michigan’s growing marijuana community since it is unpublished and not yet tested in the state's highest court.   

“If I were advising a business, I would say use caution and not use this case as a sword to enforce zero tolerance drug policies as of yet,” Gardner said.

The Lansing Board of Water and Light appreciated the court’s decision, and said “the court statement will stand as our comment.” The city of Lansing said it was "pleased with the final conclusion."

The Lansing Board of Water and Light listed no reason when it informed Eplee of its decision to rescind its offer for at-will employment, according to the opinion, but Eplee maintained it was because of her failed drug test.

Eplee argued the state’s medical marijuana law protected her from being “denied any right or privilege” including “disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau.”

The fact that BWL and the city of Lansing are “state actors” makes Eplee’s case all the more compelling, Gardner said.

“Under Michigan law, its illegal for the state to deny any card holder any right or privilege of employment,” he said.

But the trial court disagreed when it dismissed the lawsuit against the city of Lansing and its utility.

The appellate panel, consisting of Judges Mark Cavanagh, Stephen Borello and James Robert Redford, upheld the dismissal, ruling that a job offer is not a “right” and, as such, Eplee wasn’t subject to the protections in the act.

“…plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that she had any right or property interest of any manner in employment with the BWL,” the panel wrote. “…the BWL could withdraw the offer of employment at any time, for any reason or no reason at all.”

The opinion noted that Eplee was attempting to use the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act “as a sword to obtain a protected right to employment rather than as the shield of protection that is the true function.”

“The statute does not provide an independent right protecting the medical use of marijuana in all circumstances, nor does it create a protected class for users of medical marijuana,” the panel wrote.


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