TOLLESON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A Valley man says he was fired from his job because he was legally using medical marijuana. He’s now suing Albertsons, saying he was wrongfully terminated.
Tom Lee started working as a coder and receiver in a Safeway warehouse in 1996. Fourteen years later, Arizona voters approved the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) in 2010. Soon after, Lee got himself a valid medical marijuana card so he could get relief for chronic pain.
“He doesn’t bring it to work. He doesn’t show up high,” his attorney Joshua Carden said. “Tom knows the rules. He’s known them ever since he got the card and he follows them strictly because the stakes are too high.”
After a buyout by Albertsons in 2018, Lee got moved from Tempe to an Albertsons warehouse in Tolleson. In May of last year, Carden says Lee only had about an hour of forklift training before he was put in one on the job and had an accident.
“Nobody was hurt. Some ramen noodles may have been harmed in the process, but that was about it,” Carden said.
According to the suit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, they tested Lee’s urine on site, which is standard procedure. He showed his supervisor his medical marijuana card beforehand and reminded them that AMMA prohibits employers from discriminating against medical marijuana users. But the suit says Lee had THC metabolites in his system, so he promptly got fired, anyway.
“What they find when they test your urine does not impair you. Period,” Carden said.
Albertsons officials told Arizona’s Family they won’t comment on this pending litigation. But Carden thinks they may try to say the forklift job was a "safety sensitive" exception to AMMA -- an amendment the Arizona State Legislature made after the law was passed.
Ryan Hurley, a board member with the Arizona Dispensaries Association, says that aspect could make this an unprecedented case.
“In this particular case if it goes to trial and it goes to the appellate level, that question will come before the court as to whether that legislation was constitutional,” Hurley said.
He’s referring to Arizona’s Voter Protection Act, which passed in 1998. It basically says that when a law is passed by voters at the ballot box (as AMMA was), the state Legislature can’t change the law (with some exceptions).
The lawsuit just got filed on May 1. Carden says it could be a year before an initial ruling comes down. He also says Lee has had a hard time finding new work in the year since this all happened.