The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island recently filed a lawsuit against a textile company for discrimination on behalf of a graduate student the company refused to hire for a two-month internship.
According to ABC News, Christine Callaghan, a textiles student at the University of Rhode Island, uses medical marijuana to treat her “frequent and debilitating” migraines — which is why Westerly-based Darlington Fabrics Corp. refused to hire her. The ACLU said in a statement that this is the first lawsuit of its kind in Rhode Island’s history, meaning it could set an important precedent regarding medical marijuana and job recruiting throughout the state.
Timothy Cavazza, a lawyer representing Darlington Fabrics and its parent, the Moore Company, told ABC News that the company hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuit, but feels confident his client’s decision not to hire Callaghan is compliant with both state and federal law.
If Callaghan’s lawsuit is dismissed by the court and employers are subsequently allowed to discriminate against medical marijuana patients, it sets up a dangerous precedent — as people who use medical marijuana overwhelmingly do so for its health benefits.
In addition to treating migraines like Callaghan’s, THC and CBD, the cannabinoids found in marijuana, are used by cancer patients to help alleviate the side affects of chemotherapy. Marijuana has also been shown to reduce pain, muscle spasms and even the severity of Tourette syndrome.
“People with disabilities simply cannot be denied equal employment opportunities on the basis of the type of medication required to treat their particular condition,” she said.
In Rhode Island, marijuana has been legal to use for medical purposes since 2006. Patients are required to get a doctor’s approval and a state-issued medical marijuana card to use it legally — and Callaghan got her card in February 2013, ABC News reports.
“…All indications were that Callaghan would have the position” for the internship at Darlington Fabrics, which she hoped to complete for credit toward her master’s degree in textiles, before she disclosed to the company that her health condition required her to have a medical marijuana card.
No matter how Callaghan’s lawsuit plays out, it’s clear it will have a major impact on how medical marijuana patients are treated in the workplace and the job market in the state of Rhode Island.