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Federal judge hears arguments in Michigan medical marijuana case

Joseph Casias with his ACLU attorneys after Friday's hearing in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Joseph Casias with his ACLU attorneys after Friday's hearing in Grand Rapids.

A federal judge in Grand Rapids heard arguments today in the case filed by a medical marijuana patient who was fired from Wal-Mart in Battle Creek.

Joseph Casias once stocked shelves at a Wal-Mart in Battle Creek. He was fired a year ago after he tested positive for marijuana. Casias has an inoperable brain tumor and uses medical marijuana under Michigan law. Voters passed the ballot initiative in 2008.

Wal-Mart wants the case dismissed. They argue the law protects a patient from getting arrested, but not from getting fired. They argue that companies should be allowed to create policies that prohibit certain drug-use, even if it is off the clock.

Casias' ACLU attorney Scott Michelman points to a portion of the state's medical marijuana law that says patients are also protected against disciplinary and civil actions. "They (the ballot initiative's authors) used the word business and prohibited disciplinary action by a business so that people like Joseph wouldn't have to choose between their job and their medicine." Michelman argues it's a state issue that should be decided at the state court level.

The judge is expected to make a decision on that specific matter by the end of the year.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.