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Employees fired for medical marijuana use are still entitled to unemployment benefits

September 30, 2014

While it remains permissible for Michigan employers to fire employees for medical marijuana use without running afoul of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), such employees currently qualify for unemployment benefits.

According to a recent decision by the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC), an employee is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits based on a failed drug test if the employee possesses a valid medical marijuana card. The rationale is grounded in the language of the MMMA, which provides that such a person “shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau. (Emphasis added). Unlike a private employer’s discharge of an employee, the MCAC found that denying unemployment benefits due to medical marijuana use denies employees a right they otherwise would enjoy under state law, and thus it is prohibited by the MMMA. The MCAC’s holding followed the lead of Kemp v. Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital, an Ingham County Circuit Court decision now pending in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Honigman will continue to monitor developments in this area. If you have any questions about this development or the MMMA as it relates to employment law, please contact one of Honigman’s Labor and Employment attorneys.