Medical Marijuana Use Not Protected by ADA: Appeals Court

California cities are not violating the Americans with Disabilities Act when they crack down on marijuana dispensers, said a federal appellate court in a case brought by disabled California residents. The lawsuit in Marla James vs. the City of Costa Mesa was brought by severely disabled plaintiffs who said conventional medications had not alleviated the pain caused by their impairments, according to the May 21 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The plaintiffs obtain medical marijuana, which is permitted under state law, through collectives in Costa Mesa, California, and Lake Forest, California, but these cities have taken steps to close marijuana dispensing facilities that operate within their boundaries, according to the ruling. The plaintiffs charge the cities’ actions violate Title II of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination in providing public services.

“We also acknowledge that Californians embraced marijuana as an effective treatment for individuals like the plaintiffs who face debilitating pain. Congress has made clear, however, that the ADA defines ‘illegal drug use’ by reference to federal, rather than state, law, and federal law does not authorize the plaintiffs’ medical marijuana use. We therefore necessarily conclude that the plaintiffs’ medical marijuana use is not protected by the ADA.”

“The case doesn’t change things for employers,” but “it does strike a blow against the expansion of medical marijuana rights” for employees as more states pass laws permitting medical marijuana’s use, said Mr. Valenza.

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