|Graphic: Reality Catcher|
Joseph Casias said on Tuesday that it was unfair of WalMart to fire him for legally using marijuana to treat his cancer pain.
With the backing of state and national branches of the American Civil Liberties Union and his attorney, Daniel Grow, Casias said he filed a lawsuit Tuesday morning in Calhoun County Circuit Court against WalMart Stores Inc for wrongful termination last November, reports the Battle Creek Enquirer.
The 30-year-old Battle Creek, Mich, cancer patient had undergone a routine drug screening after hurting his knee on the job last year. The test showed that Casias had marijuana in his system and he was fired, even though he is registered as a legal medical marijuana patient in Michigan.
|Joseph Casias: “They threw me away after all I did”|
“I really cared and I wanted to become something there,” Casias told Toke of the Town. “I gave them everything. Anything they asked me to do, I did. More than they asked me to do.”
“I tried my best; I gave all I could to them and they always talked about ‘family.’ And they threw me away after all I did,” Joseph told us.
“For some people, working at WalMart is just a job, but for me, it was a way of life,” Casias said. “I came to WalMart for a better opportunity for my family and I worked hard and proved myself. I just want the opportunity to continue my work.”
“I feel like I’m being treated like a felon,” he said.
According to Casias and his attorney, WalMart did not have the authority to overstep Michigan law. The medical marijuana law allows patients with specific conditions to register with the state to grow, possess and use marijuana or designate a caregiver to help them grow the medicinal herb.
“Medical marijuana has had a life-changing positive effect for Joseph, but WalMart made him pay a stiff and unfair price for his medicine,” said Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU.
“No patient should be forced to choose between adequate pain relief and gainful employment, and no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in consultation with their doctors,” Michelman said.
“WalMart is a very large corporation, but it is not above the law,” said Daniel Korobkin, staff attorney with ACLU of Michigan.
In 2008, Michigan voters enacted the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which provides protection for medical use of cannabis under state law. After the law was passed, Joseph’s oncologist recommended he try marijuana, as permitted by state law, so Casias obtained the appropriate registry card from the Michigan Department of Community Health.
The results were immediate and profound; his pain decreased dramatically. The new medicine did not induce nausea like the pain medication he’d been prescribed, and Casias was able to gain back some of the weight he’d lost during treatment.
“Joseph is exactly the kind of person whom Michigan voters had in mind when they passed the state’s medical marijuana law,” Grow said. “Medical marijuana is legal in this state because voters recognized its ability to alleviate the pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with debilitating medical conditions, and no corporation doing business in Michigan should be permitted to flout state law.”
Michigan’s medical marijuana law protects patients registered with the state from “arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner” for the use of medicinal cannabis as authorized by a doctor, and also protects employees from being disciplined for their use of medical marijuana in accordance with the law.
The law does not protect workers who use marijuana while on duty, but Casias and his attorney said he only used pot at home after work.
Casias said prescription pain medication made him nauseous, but marijuana relaxed him without uncomfortable side effects so that the had energy to work hard the next day.
“I get up the next morning, I don’t feel so bad,” Casias said.
Casias had worked at the Battle Creek WalMart for five years, and he loved his job. Due to good performance at work, he had been promoted to inventory stock manager.
Out of 400 employees, Casias was one of only two people named Associate of the Year in 2008 according to his attorneys.
Casias said he is seeking financial compensation and would like to have his job back, but he doubts that is possible now. He said he gets unemployment benefits, but has no other income.
“I feel it is unfair to me and my family,” he said.
Casias, a sinus cancer survivor with an inoperable brain tumor, lost his health insurance when he was fired and is struggling to pay for his medical treatments.
“I just wish it didn’t have to be this way,” Casias said.