Fired for following doctor's orders - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Fired for following doctor's orders

Reported by David Mattingly

More and more states are allowing residents to use medical marijuana with a doctor's prescription.

There are many wrinkles to the policy including patients' rights and community safety. 

In Michigan, Joseph Casias though the law was on his side when he started using; a doctor recommended he use marijuana to curb his pain, "A pain like that, I don't wish it on anyone. That is just, just not right to hurt like that, said Casias.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Casias's home state last year.

He says he never smoked on the job and never went to work stoned, but Casias' employer, Wal-mart, fired him anyway when he failed a company drug test after an injury on the job.

Casias, who was a low-level supervisor, is now suing the company with the backing of the ACLU, "Well, this case is about the right of patients to make medical decision in consultation with their doctors, not with interference from their employers, says attorney Scott Michelman.

With 14 states now approving medical marijuana use, this case could decide how much power states really have to protect patients like Joseph Casias.

Casias says medical marijuana gave him pain relief no other drug could.
An inoperable brain tumor that affects his speech, also wraps his head, neck and back in a blanket of pain, "It means everything to me. It means more than everything to me, more than anybody could ever realize. It is such a relief to not agonize all the time and try to deal with it, and try to deal with it and go on with your life," said Casias. 

For now, Casias is having to go on without a job-- he's seeking back pay, compensation and damages.

Wal-mart hasn't filed a response to the suit but did release a statement. A spokesman for the company says firing Joseph Casias "wasn't because of what his doctor prescribed it was about Casias' ability to do his job safely".

The statement goes on to say... "as more states allow this treatment, employers are left without any guidelines except the federal standard. In these cases, until further guidance is available, we will always default to what we believe Is the safest environment for our associates and customers".

Casias says he's more than $18,000 in debt after years of cancer treatment and has been unable to find a job since he was fired last fall. 

This married, father of two, is not the only one with a stake in this fight.

Casias is one of 20,000 legal medical marijuana users... just in the state of Michigan. 

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