At least three college students have launched legal challenges against colleges that have taken action against them – including expulsion – for using medical cannabis, according to an Al Jazeera report. The lawsuits come from students studying nursing and other medical specialties who, under school policies, must submit to drug tests.
Sheida Assar, who uses medical cannabis to treat chronic pain from polycystic ovary syndrome, was expelled from Phoenix Arizona’s GateWay Community College after failing a drug test for cannabis. She told Al Jazeera that school officials told her she would not have any problems if she showed them her state-issued medical cannabis card.
“They yanked me out of class in the middle of the school day. They escorted me to the administration like I was a … criminal. It’s discrimination, and it also violates my rights under the Arizona medical marijuana law.” – Assar, to Al Jazeera
Assar is seeking $2,000 she spent on tuition and other educational expenses and additional money for damages. GateWay spokeswoman, Christine Lambrakis, said the college has a ban on cannabis use but that the school is reviewing its policies; for now, the school has no plans to change the rules despite the 2018 Arizona Supreme Court Ruling.
Connecticut nursing student Kathryn Magner sued Sacred Heart University after officials barred her from attending required clinical medical rounds after she tested positive for cannabis. Magner has a medical cannabis card from her home state of Massachusetts for undisclosed conditions. She has since settled the suit under undisclosed terms; however, before the settlement, she stopped using cannabis, passed a drug test, and obtained approval from the Office of Student Accessibility to use cannabis, but the nursing school officials would not let her back into the program. Connecticut law prohibits public and private colleges from discriminating against students enrolled in medical cannabis programs.
In a statement, Sacred Heart said it treats medical cannabis like other disability-related requests and “seeks to provide reasonable accommodation under the law.”
Michael Thad Allen, a lawyer for Magner, said issued like these “will become more common if employers and schools don’t abide by the law.”
Kaitlin McKeon was expelled from Nova Southeastern University’s nursing program last year after failing a drug test for cannabis; officials at the Florida school said she violated the institution’s drug policy even though she holds a medical cannabis card issued in the state.
Michael Minardi, her attorney, called it “sad” that the college took action against his client “because she chose a medication that’s legal in Florida but not one that they recognize.”
The rulings could set legal precedents which could ultimately prevent schools from taking punitive actions against medical cannabis cardholders.
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