Tractor Supply Co. Plowing New Terrain in Medical Marijuana Law
Last week, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico issued a memorandum and order granting Tractor Supply Company's Motion to Dismiss in Garcia v. Tractor Supply Co. The Plaintiff, Rojerio Garcia, suffers from HIV/AIDS and was using medical marijuana under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act ("CUA"), N.M. Stat. Ann. § 26-2B-1, to help to treat his condition. Mr. Garcia applied for and was hired for a position as Team Lead and took a drug test, which tested positive for cannabis metabolites. As a result, Mr. Garcia was discharged from his position. Mr. Garcia brought suit alleging his termination violated New Mexico's Human Rights statute and that the CUA requires Tractor Supply Co. to accommodate his medical marijuana use.
Tractor Supply Co. filed a Motion to Dismiss arguing that there was no affirmative obligation on the part of the employer to accommodate the use of medical marijuana. The court agreed. While the court paid credence to Plaintiff's argument that because New Mexico's Workers' Compensation Act authorizes reimbursement for medical marijuana that New Mexico courts would find medical marijuana to be a reasonable accommodation under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, but ultimately found that "requiring an insurance carrier to reimburse medical treatments that have been approved by a physician in a regulated system" is different from "requiring that a national employer permit and accommodate an individual's marijuana use that is illegal under federal law." The court noted the public policy issues that would accompany such a requirement—likely forcing Tractor Supply to modify its drug-free policy for each state that "has legalized marijuana, decriminalized marijuana, or created a medical marijuana program." Accordingly, the Court found that the CUA did not include an affirmative requirement that employers accommodate "an employer's use of a drug that is still illegal under federal law." Further, the court found that "[t]o affirmatively require Tractor Supply to accommodate [the plaintiff's] illegal drug use would mandate Tractor Supply to permit the very conduct the CSA proscribes."
Accordingly, the relationship between state laws decriminalizing the use of marijuana and the employment relationship continues to evolve. Verrill Dana's Labor & Employment practice group continues to stay abreast of these changes and will continue updating readers as changes occur.