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The Ingham County Circuit Court Rules in Favor of Unemployment Benefits for Medical Marijuana Patients

March 9, 2013 Medical Marijuana

The Ingham County Circuit in Kemp v. Hayes Green Beach Hospital ruled that marijuana use in accordance with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act does not disqualify qualifying patients under the MMMA from unemployment benefits.

Plaintiff Kemp was a technician at the Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital. She is a qualifying patient under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, using marijuana to treat lupus and neuropathy.

In may 2011, a patient made several complaints against Kemp, including failure to use gloves, confidentiality breaches, and Kemp’s statement that she ingested “special brownies.”

Related: The Sixth Circuit Rules Holds That The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act Does Not Regulate Private Businesses

Based on this complaint Kemp was given a drug test by the Hospital and terminated upon failing that test.

Kemp filed for unemployment benefits with the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

At the time, the UIA interpreted the Michigan Employment Security Act to be that individuals using medical marijuana under the MMMA who are discharged for a positive drug test should not be disqualified from unemployment benefits unless the claimant is in possession of marijuana while at work, under the influence of marijuana while at work, or using marijuana while at work.

The UIA made an initial determination that Kemp was disqualified from unemployment benefits because Appellant was terminated due to testing positive for illegal drugs.

Several levels of administrative appeals followed, with favorable rulings going back and forth between Kemp and the Hospital, resulting in the highest administrative ruling by the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission. The Commission ruled against Kemp, reasoning that the MMMA neither offers employment protection nor regulates private employment, which was the holding in the Sixth Circuit case Casias v. Wal-Mart Stores.

Kemp appealed to the Ingham County Circuit Court. A circuit court may reverse an administrative decision only if it finds that the order or decision is contrary to law or is not supported by substantial evidence.

The first issue before the Court was whether Casis v. Wal-Mart Stores supports disqualifying medical marijuana patients.

In Casias, the Sixth Circuit held that the MMMA did not protect employees from employment termination for marijuana use in accordance with the MMMA because the MMMA did not regulate private business. Rather, the MMMA protects patients from actions by the State government.

What is at stake here, the Court said, are indeed actions by the State, as the benefits flow from a legislatively enacted statute that is enforced and interpreted by a State agency. As such, the Court held that “the MMMA should be considered when determining whether an individual is disqualified from unemployment benefits under the Michigan Employment Security Act.”

The second question for the Court was whether an individual who tests positive for marijuana is disqualified from benefits when the marijuana use was in accordance with the MMMA and the individuals was not intoxicated at work.

In general, an individual is disqualified from benefits after a drug test shows a positive result for the illegal use of a controlled substance. There was no evidence here that Kemp was using marijuana outside the scope of the MMMA or that she possessed or was intoxicated by marijuana at work. Therefore, she would not be disqualified from benefits based on her drug test.

Contact ArborYpsi Law at 734-883-9584 or at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com to speak with attorney Sam Bernstein.

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