Mass. court rules employees can’t be fired for medical cannabis


Logan Lowrey-Rasmussen

The highest court in Massachusetts ruled on Monday that a local woman who was terminated for positively testing cannabis in an employee drug screening can sue the company for handicap discrimination.

Cristina Barbuto was hired by Advantage Sales and Marketing in 2014 and informed her supervisor of her condition and treatment without any complaint.

After completing a single work day with the company, she received a call which informed her on the failed test results and termination.

Matthew Fogelman and Adam Fine from Fogelman and Fogelman litigated Christina Barbuto’s case arguing her termination was handicap discrimination.

The state’s Supreme Judicial Court sent the case back to the Superior Court although it was dismissed in 2015.

Similar to those who use opiates to treat their pain, Fogelman and Fine told Cannabis News Box that the plant should be treated like any prescribed medication “as long as the worker can perform their job and is not impaired at work.”

“….employers should work with employees who use medical cannabis the same way they would work with any employee who uses any medication to treat a medical condition – either not at all or engaged in an interactive dialogue to make reasonable accommodations,” they added.

Barbuto’s legal team says one of the challenges future cases face is the stigma cannabis has held in the past.

“Patients still face a stigma when they use medical marijuana,” attorneys Fogelman and Fine said.

“We hope this case helps to lessen that stigma and cause employers to be more sensitive to their employee’s medical conditions and medications,” they added.

The ruling is considered a legal milestone for the nation as medical cannabis laws do not contain provisions protecting patients from termination.

“Cristina Barbuto is brave to have brought this case forward and we are very pleased the SJC ruled in our favor,” her attorneys said.

“It is a compassionate, humane ruling and one that fits into our state’s discrimination framework,” they added.