New Mexico Woman Sues Employer Over Medical Pot

Veteran with PTSD was registered with medical marijuana program

an opened container of medical marijuana
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By Susan Montoya Bryan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A New Mexico physician's assistant who also is a medical marijuana patient says one of the state's largest health care providers violated her rights when it fired her following a positive drug test.

Donna Smith is the latest medical marijuana patient to go to court to seek protections for workers who have been fired due to their participation in the state's medical marijuana program. She filed her lawsuit against Presbyterian Healthcare Services in state district court in June, and her attorney is now seeking a hearing date. Smith worked for Presbyterian for four days in February. She was fired after a urine test came back positive for the active ingredient in marijuana. According to the lawsuit, she submitted a doctor's note and her state-issued medical marijuana card, but Presbyterian officials said providers were not allowed to participate in the medical marijuana program.

A military veteran, Smith was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She said she began using medical marijuana to treat her symptoms after other medications failed to work.

She and her attorney argue that employers should not be able to limit workers' access to treatment options that are legal under state law, or discriminate against those who hold medical marijuana licenses.

"Individual rights and liberties and the ability of an adult to be able to address their issues and treat themselves in a healthy way pursuant to the laws of their state are what's at stake here," attorney Jason Flores-Williams said Wednesday.

New Mexico in 2007 was the first state to develop and implement a medical marijuana production and distribution system, and it has served as a model for others states. But some legal experts say employers here still misunderstand the relationship between medical marijuana and the workplace, and the fact that pot is illegal under federal law further complicates matters.

While some states have laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against card holders, and in some cases registered workers who test positive for marijuana, New Mexico employers can set policies aimed at drug-free workplaces.

State and federal courts have generally supported employers, but medical marijuana advocates say it's time for more clarification in New Mexico.

Jessica Gelay with the Drug Policy Alliance in New Mexico said employers are behind in terms of crafting policies that take the state's medical marijuana program and patients' rights under the New Mexico Human Rights Act into account.

"People shouldn't be punished as long as there's no undermining of their ability to do their job or coming to work impaired," she said.

In Smith's case, her attorney said she satisfied all the requirements for a medical marijuana license and served her patients in an outstanding capacity, but now her career is threatened.

Presbyterian officials could not comment specifically on the lawsuit. But Joanne Suffis, senior vice president of Presbyterian's human resources department, said the company is committed to patient safety and that a drug-free workplace is a key component.

In another case filed earlier this year, a longtime employee of the Metropolitan Detention Center was fired following a positive test for marijuana. Augustine Stanley, an Iraq War veteran who has a license to use medical marijuana to treat PTSD, is also claiming violations of the state Human Rights Act.

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medical marijuana licenses.

What a joke!

In California, you can go to any quack and get a medical marijuana card.

I know people who do it just to prove a point that if you want a card and have a few bucks, there are a lot of doctors out there that will gladley give you one.

So, whats the point?

August 08 2014 at 5:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

So, would she be more hireable if she were using strong prescription medications for PTSD? Medical marijuana does less harm to the body than scripted pharmaceuticals, over time. Lost my nephew because the doctor prescribed medications destroyed his stomach, liver and kidneys. Had he had access to edible marijuana in this state the likelihood he would still be alive is very high. So, do we kill patients with high profit medications or pay them disability to stay home and medicate with marijuana? If she did not use the mariguana on company time she would be working and getting the help she needs to compete in the work place while staying off government dole.

August 08 2014 at 4:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can legally drink alcohol. That doesn't mean I am allowed to have alcohol in my system when I am working.

August 08 2014 at 4:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Shes going to lose. Even though some states allow medical marijuana it doesn`t belong in the work place. You want a traffic controller smoking pot and guiding your plane in?

August 08 2014 at 3:23 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Alcohol is cool with employers in the Land of Enchantment. Pot is not. New Mexico has one of the highest rates of Alcohol addiction and DUI's per capita in the nation. Highway deaths related to alcohol usage continues to rise almost unchecked. A state with a Medical Marijuana program should have statutes that protect Medical Marijuana users from discrimination and rules that subject them ridicule, loss of employment, and stereotyping by the public and private industry. Solve your alcohol problems, NM, and protect legal consumption of Medical Marijuana for your Citizens. Governor? Any comments?

August 08 2014 at 2:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bewley Steve

I'm sure she has VA approval? NO? So she self medicated or got some hack to give her the script. That's supposed to validate her reason for using pot? If the company has a standing "zero tolerance" for drugs (and this is legal since the Government does it ALL the time) she doesn't have a leg to stand on so to speak. She is NOT being discriminated against because she is a veteran. Not like what happened to me when I retired and was told by one company (now out of business) that they didn't want trained murderers working for them. That's discrimination.

August 08 2014 at 2:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People need to understand that just because you are taking a legal drug and you have a legal prescription, doesn't mean you have the right to have that drug in your system when at work!!!

August 08 2014 at 2:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dennis's comment

Soooo...someone such as myself who takes medication to prevent or seriously lessen the chances of an epileptic seizure and requires that medication to do so to live a normal, working, productive life doesn't have the right to have the medication in my system at work while earning my pay to make my mortgage, car ( yes..I get to drive because that medication prevents the siezures and I am regularly checked ), insurance, electric, natural gas, and daily life expenses. Otherwise YOU can pay my way through life via YOUR taxes there Dennis. Think before you speak.

August 08 2014 at 5:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You can take the stuff legally, but no one should believe that it doesn't affect you. I don't blame ANY company for having rules against coming to work after ingesting it. When an accident happens because someone is on pot you can rest assured that the jury will come back with a big reward against the company. You can't come to work drunk and expect nothing to happen, this is exactly the same. You can use, but you don't have a right to put other people in danger - and at a hospital, no way.

August 08 2014 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Pot is still a violation of federal law and federal law supercedes state law. I wouldn't want anyone on the job under the influence of anything. It does, in fact, impair your abilities and practicing medicine and putting someone else's life in jeopardy while you are high? Not a risk anyone should have to take and anyone with a half ounce of sense, would not subject someone to the risk.

August 07 2014 at 11:53 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

med pot? BS. you smoke it your just a doper. PTSD? right, pot sure makes a diff. your just a junkey and nothing more.i have PTSD too but i dont smoke pot. i just deal with it like most other vets do. so go cry on some other junkeys sholder and stop making the rest of us vets look like a dope like you.

August 07 2014 at 8:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chuck's comment

Try it.. You might find that it really does help AND it might help your PTSD and prevent you from getting so angry and scared.

August 07 2014 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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