Nevada’s Supreme Court Ruling on Workers’ Right to Medical Marijuana

February 7, 2023 Firm News,Personal Injury

For over 20 years, medical marijuana has been legal to purchase in the state of Nevada, with recreational cannabis following suit in 2017. Despite the law, many employers have discriminated against employees who use marijuana legally, even those with debilitating medical conditions. 

In a first-of-its-kind ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court has affirmed the right of workers to use medical marijuana. Workers can also pursue legal action against employers who fail to provide reasonable accommodations for medical cannabis use that takes place off-site and outside of working hours. The ruling is a significant victory for employees with chronic pain, seizures, and other life-altering conditions. 

Background of the Supreme Court Case

In 2019, James Roushkolb lost his job at Freeman Expositions LLC after a large piece of plexiglass fell and broke while he and a co-worker were disassembling a convention exhibit. As per company protocol, Roushkolb was subjected to a drug test which came back positive, as he had a valid medical marijuana card at the time.

Unfortunately for Roushkolb, his collective bargaining agreement with the company stipulated a strict zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use. As such, Freeman Expositions contacted his union to inform them that he was no longer eligible for dispatch to the company’s worksites. Roushkolb then filed a lawsuit against the company, citing unlawful employment practices, tortious discharge, and violation of medical needs, among other legal claims. 

The Nevada Supreme Court’s Decision

Roushkolb’s lawsuit eventually made it to the Nevada Supreme Court. In the filing, both parties asked the Court to clarify the state’s laws on medical cannabis in the employment context. Recently, the Court issued a decision that allowed employers to terminate employees for smoking marijuana, even if it’s legal for recreational use in Nevada, as it remains illegal under federal law.

However, Roushkolb’s case was different because he possessed a valid medical marijuana card, and medical marijuana is legal in Nevada. According to NRS 613.222 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, workers have the right to request accommodations for their medical conditions. 

Although Freeman Expositions successfully argued that Roushkolb did not request accommodations, the court did find that the company violated his medical needs under NRS 678C.850(3). This law states that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for the use of medical marijuana off-site and outside of normal working hours.

Implications of the Nevada Supreme Court’s Ruling

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that employees cannot file claims for tortious discharge if they are dismissed for medical marijuana use, except in cases where the employer fails to provide reasonable accommodations. This provides a narrow exception for employees with valid medical marijuana cards who use the drug outside of work hours. Roushkolb’s case will now return to the district court, where he will argue that Freeman Expositions violated his rights.

The Nevada Supreme Court’s decision sets a powerful precedent for other states grappling with the issue of medical marijuana in the workplace. However, many Nevada workplaces still need to catch up with the law. If your employer fails to provide you with the accommodations that you deserve, contact a Nevada employment attorney to discuss your case and explore your legal options.