BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) - A rally was held Sunday in support of Joseph Casias, aregistered medical marijuana user and cancer patient who wasterminated from his job at Walmart late last year.
Casias, a five-year employee, was fired after testing positivefor a controlled substance: marijuana.
"If I take a medication that I have a legal right to take, whyshould I lose my job for that?" Casias said. "Especially when Igave everything I had for them (to) try to be a role modelemployee."
He has a prescription for the drug and said he uses it for painfrom sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor he has beensuffering from for the past 10 years. Marijuana is one of the onlythings that can help get him through the tough times, he said.
Casias didn't use marijuana on the job or before work during hisyears at Walmart, he said. He hurt himself on the job, and afterthat, had a routine drug test.
That's when the controlled substance was detected. He told 24Hour News 8 he showed his managers his medical marijuana card, buteventually was fired anyway.
"I'm just trying to control my pain," Casias said. "That's theonly thing I'm trying to do here -- control my pain. I'm not anabuser of the drug or anything like that."
He said he shouldn't have been fired in a state where medicalmarijuana is legal.
The law on the issue isn't crystal clear. According to the textof the law at Michigan.gov, it says people using medical marijuana"shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in anymanner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limitedto civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business oroccupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for themedical use of marihuana in accordance with this act."
But later on, it says, "Nothing in this act shall be construedto require ... An employer to accommodate ... any employee workingwhile under the influence of marihuana."
Casias and dozens of supporters gathered outside the BattleCreek Walmart, where Casias used to work, to protest. The groupwanted him to get his job back, receive an apology from Walmart anda change in policy.
However, Casias said even if Walmart offered him his job back,he's not sure he would take it. At this point, he and his familyare debating how far they will take this fight, he said.
"In states such as Michigan, where prescriptions for marijuanacan be obtained, an employer can still enforce a policy thatrequires termination of employment following a positive drugscreen," said Anna Taylor, of Walmart Corporate Communications inan e-mail. "We believe our policy complies with the law and wesupport decisions based on the policy."
Walmart should change its policy, Casias said.
"I think employees should be judged by the quality of theirwork, not the quality of their urine," said Greg Francisco, aprotestor and the executive director of the Michigan MedicalMarijuana Association. He told 24 Hour News 8 the ACLU is aware ofthis issue.
"(It's) overwhelming and I feel very blessed at the same timethat all these people gave up their time to fight for this effort,"Casias said.
Casias said Walmart is trying to challenge his unemploymentbenefits. He has a phone hearing scheduled at the end of March.
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