The Washington Supreme Court is the latest high court to conclude that a state medical marijuana law does not protect employees from discharge for their marijuana use. In Roe v. TeleTech Customer Care Mgmt. (Colo.) LLC, No. 83768-6 (June 9, 2011), the justices ruled 8-1 that the Washington State Medical Use of Marijuana Act merely protects doctors and patients from criminal prosecution under state law and does not prohibit employers from discharging employees who test positive for marijuana in a drug test. The Court held that the Act does not create a private right of action against employers who take such action and “does not proclaim a sufficient public policy to give rise to a tort action for wrongful termination for authorized use of medical marijuana.”

The Washington court joins state supreme courts in California (2008), Montana (2009) and Oregon (2010) who have reached similar conclusions regarding their state’s medical marijuana laws. Fourteen states currently authorize or decriminalize use of marijuana for medical purposes, and the employment ramifications of such laws remain hotly contested. HRO attorneys such as Eve Burton (eve.burton@hro.com) are monitoring developments nationwide and can help employers understand their obligations and craft practical solutions.