Court hears Wal-Mart medical marijuana firing case

GRAND RAPIDS AP) -- A federal judge last Friday heard arguments in the case of a medical marijuana user claiming a Michigan Walmart store wrongfully fired him after testing positive for the drug.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids said he will consider a motion by attorneys representing Joseph Casias to move the case to back state court and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s motion to dismiss the case. The American Civil Liberties Union is among those representing Casias, who sued in state court in June in Calhoun County Circuit Court.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said in a statement last Friday it's sympathetic to Casias' condition but wants the case heard in federal court.

Casias, 30, was fired last year after five years working in a Battle Creek store. He said he was registered to use the drug to treat symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor and cancer.

Casias told reporters afterward he was "very grateful to have my day in court."

Michigan voters approved medical marijuana use in 2008. Federal law still prohibits the sale and cultivation of the drug.

Casias' drug test was given after he injured his knee at work last November, but the positive result on the urine test only indicated drug use in recent days or weeks, according to the lawsuit. Casias said the injury had nothing to do with marijuana use; he simply stepped the wrong way.

Wal-Mart said earlier this year that treatment wasn't the relevant issue. The company argued the most important issue is the ability of employees to work safely, and as more states permit such treatments employers have no guidelines except the federal standard.

Published: Tue, Nov 16, 2010