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Connecticut Court Allows MMJ Patient Lawsuit Against Prospective Employer to Continue

A U.S. District Court judge in Connecticut has rejected a request to dismiss a lawsuit against an employer who rescinded a job offer after the applicant, a registered medical cannabis patient in the state who suffers from post-traumatic stress-disorder, tested positive for cannabis on a drug screening.

The employer Niantic Operating Company, doing business as Bride Brook Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, argued they had the right to withdraw the offer because federal law supersedes state law, therefore, the plaintiff, Katelin Noffsinger, had no grounds to sue the company for revoking the offer she had already accepted.

Bride Brook had claimed that they were protected from legal action under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), and argued that the anti-discrimination employment provision under the state’s the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In his decision, Judge Jeffery Alker Meyer ruled that neither the CSA nor FDCA have jurisdiction over employment law; and the CSA “does not make it illegal to employ a marijuana user.”

“Like the CSA, however, the FDCA does not purport to regulate employment, and my focus here is limited to the validity of PUMA’s anti-discrimination-in-employment provision,” Meyer wrote. “Because [the provision] neither conflicts with nor poses an obstacle to the goals of the FDCA, I conclude that the FDCA does not preempt [the provision].”

Meyer called Bride Brook’s claims that PUMA violates the ADA “counterintuitive” and “crafted in order to make clear that the ADA does not extend its protections to persons who use illicit drugs or alcohol.”

“First and most importantly, the ADA explicitly provides that an employer ‘may prohibit the illegal use of drugs and the use of alcohol at the workplace by all employees,’” he wrote, noting that Noffsinger testified that she uses one Marinol capsule once-a-day before bed. “But the facts of this case do not involve any use of marijuana by plaintiff at the workplace, and PUMA explicitly declines to authorize such workplace use.”

The ruling allows Noffsinger to proceed with a lawsuit against the company. She is seeking damages for emotional distress and attorney’s fees.

This is the third case this year that a medical cannabis patient has found protections under their respective state medical cannabis laws. In July, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that a registered patient terminated after failing a drug test for cannabis could sue the employer for handicap discrimination, and in earlier this month a New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings judge determined that the Taxi and Limousine Commission could not revoke a TLC license from a registered medical cannabis patient.

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