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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Clinician Sues Hospt. Over Med Marijuana Firing

Clinician Sues Hospital Over Medical-Marijuana Firing

June 18, 2014

A physician assistant (PA) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who was fired by a health system there for using medical marijuana, has sued her former employer for discriminating against her on medical grounds.

Like other job-holders fired over medical marijuana, PA Donna Smith finds herself in the vise of conflicting laws. New Mexico is one of 22 states, along with Washington, DC, that have legalized the comprehensive use of medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other states such as Florida have approved it for a limited set of conditions, provided that it contains a low level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant's main active ingredient.

Whether it is state-sanctioned or not, however, marijuana in any form remains illegal on the federal level. Presbyterian Healthcare Services cited federal law after it fired Smith on February 21 after several days on the job. She had tested positive for THC in a urinalysis.

In her lawsuit, filed June 9 in a state district court, Smith said that Presbyterian Healthcare Services broke the New Mexico Human Rights Act by wrongfully firing her because of her medical condition. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) in 1997 while she was serving in the military. PTSD symptoms such as night terrors and insomnia continued to afflict her after she was honorably discharged in 1998, and traditional treatment regimens brought her no comfort.

In November 2013, her physician recommended that she begin treating her condition with medical marijuana, which New Mexico legalized in 2007.

After she tested positive for THC in February 2014, Smith told Presbyterian Healthcare Services that she was a legal medicinal user, according to the lawsuit. The organization's medical director later informed her that she was being fired "due to [its] policy of not allowing 'providers' to be medical marijuana patients."

The lawsuit also faulted her former employer with failure to accommodate her condition and other job-related miscues.

Shortly after Smith filed her lawsuit, Presbyterian Healthcare Services issued a statement saying that federal law did not recognize the use of medical marijuana.

"Presbyterian has a mandate under federal law to provide a drug-free workplace," the company said. "Presbyterian is committed to patient safety and we believe that a drug-free workplace is a key component of patient safety." It issued the same statement to Medscape Medical News in response to an interview request.

Smith told Medscape Medical News that the disagreement between state and federal law was "nonsensical."

"They put so many barriers in front of patients. Why even bother having medical marijuana?" said Smith, who explained that her PTSD stemmed from a sexual assault.

State Supreme Courts Have Sided With Employers

Posted By: STS  First @ 1:36:31 PM


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