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News, Politics

Pennsylvania Just Says No to Employee Cannabis Discrimination

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

October 22, 2020 10:54 am ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Pennsylvania Just Says No to Employee Cannabis Discrimination

Pennsylvania has a patriotic past being one of America’s original 13 colonies.  It boasts the title of being home to the first and second Continental Congress in 1774 and 1775. The Declaration of Independence was drafted there and, in essence, the birth of America’s freedom as a result of the Revolutionary War. In 1790 Pennsylvania was home to around 430k people. Today, the population of Pennsylvania has flourished to more than an estimated 12 million. The state motto is a fitting one for even today being ‘Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.”

Medical cannabis was legalized in Pennsylvania on April 6th of 2016. It wasn’t made available for legal purchase until Feb 15th of 2018. After dragging their feet, citizens of PA finally had the same freedoms as some of the other citizens in the divided United States. A person must have a medical cannabis patient card to avoid legal trouble. Possession, sale, and distribution of recreational cannabis is still illegal in Pennsylvania and can land you fines and jail time.

Thirty grams or less and you face a 30-day vacation in the county lockup, and as if that weren’t bad enough, you also could get a $500 fine. If you have over 30 grams, you could be facing an 11-29 aka a year in jail and up to a $5000 fine. Sale and distribution charges are about the same, with the only difference being that sale of over 30 grams lands you between 2.5-5 years in incarceration depending on the mood of the judge that day. Sad right?

A Solid Move Towards a Future of Virtue, Liberty, and Independence

A recent decision by a federal judge in PA shows promise that the pursuit of virtue, liberty, and independence is still alive in the state.  On Sept 25th, Judge Gerald J. Pappert ruled in favor of protecting medical cannabis patients with a valid state-issued med card from employment discrimination and the recognition of a private right to sue should these rights reportedly be violated.

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Donna Hudnell was a security analyst at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals Inc. in PA. She was drug tested after returning to work from a spinal injury. She had informed her employers of her medical cannabis patient status but was fired after her test.  Her medical card renewal came the same day as she was fired. The hospital claimed her card was not valid, saying they had no way of determining if she was lawfully using cannabis at the time of her termination. The case, Hudnell v. Thomas Jefferson Univ. Hosps., Inc., 2020 BL 367616, E.D. Pa., No. 2:20-cv-01621, 9/25/20 is sure to draw the attention of many who feel they have been wrongfully mistreated by employers. Hopefully, it will also get employers to address this issue before it winds them up in a court of law too.

Currently, courts in Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Arizona have laws that allow employees to sue employers over discrimination based on medical cannabis status or consumption. Basically, let’s say a person who is a medical cannabis patient is asked to take a random drug test. After this test, they are reprimanded, demoted, or released from their job. In the past, they would have been out of luck. Now, they can sue.

Positive Cannabis Reform is on the Horizon

Unlike the days of yesteryear, where cannabis consumers had to live shrouded in fear and confinement, they can confidently start to step out of the dark cannabis closet and into the light of the legal green scene. Cannabis legalization has become a hot topic when talking about presidential nominees. With cannabis reform being such a serious topic that affects millions of people across the country, it is a little discerning to see the current commander in chief make such bias remarks about drugs, even referencing the success of the death penalty in other countries.

While the politicians of America try to figure out what they should do with current cannabis laws, American citizens and businesses continue to suffer at the hands of outdated cannabis policy. In an effort to control a free country, our politicians have destroyed millions of lives with the failed War on Drugs. Current federal laws have cannabis classified as a schedule 1 drug with no medical value and a high addiction rate. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even the most illiterate politician we have out there should be able to read the picture book of the times showing this to be untrue. Cannabis is a medicine, and it is great to see a judge at the federal level support the people of this county instead of some other private agenda. Medical cannabis legalization in PA is a step in the right direction. Full legalization needs to happen not just in PA but across the US. It is time to allow hard-working people the same rights as neighbors in other states and the same rights as other business owners around the world.

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