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.

[WATCH: Tolleson man says he was fired for using marijuana legally]

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.


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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(31) comments

Tony G

If you want more information on Mr. Lee's predicament, just refer to Arizona HB 2541. It will tell you that Tom Lee and his ignorant attorney are on the fast track to nowhere.

Bob Blaylock

  As one who was a professional forklift operator for seven years, I have to say this:  You cannot be a marijuana user and a forklift operator.  Period.

  What happened with Mr. Lee is is standard industry procedure.  When a forklift accident occurs, the operator of the forklift is drug-tested, and if he fails, he's fired.  In fact, Mr. Lee should have been drug tested before he was given a forklift licence, and failing, he should not have received a license in the first place.


Tobe or nottobe that is the question medical or not that is the answered. You can not drive or operate under some meds if he needed quit he should have for safety of others[scared][scared][scared]


Medical or not , that is the question , to be or not to be . [pirate][beam]


I worked with this guy Tom Lee for 15 plus years at Safeway...He is a major pothead....smokes a bong all day everyday....Has driven a forklift for over 20 plus years....well experienced ...

Tony G

And you lived to tell about it.



Just stay out of his way.


Actually he might have a case.


Sucks for you, but that's how it works until federal law changes.

AZ Native

Why has he waited a year before filing his law suit? I know pot will slow you down, but waiting a year? He just wants to try to get a large settlement so he won't have to work anymore.


Using medical marijuana does not exempt you from following safety rules nor provide immunity if you violate them. He wrecked his forklift - he's done. The medical marijuana issue is only a smoke screen. (Smoke screen...get it? I crack me up!)


Not sure if you realize this but marijuana stays in your system for up to 30 days so you could have ingested it a month ago and depending on your body chemistry you could test positive for it. Just because his body tested positive for it doesn't mean he was high at the time. Just sayin


@TonyG; EXACTLY RIGHT! When the gov't had the comments period open, I sent a long 1 including that driving should be terminated with every medical pot card handed out and that should include machinery at work. CO has lost a lot of industry over incompatibility of OSHA/COSH laws with use of pot too; and I'll bet he doesn't stay home for 28 days for it to clear his system after every dose either. If businesses can't protect their other employees and stay within the extant laws for safety, they'll be leaving here too.


Friends, can we try to keep our comments topical and try not to attack each other? I realize I am a newcomer to this whole commenting thing and that some of you have a long and sordid "history" with each other but calling people names doesn't allow for anyone to add their opinion without sifting through the vitriol. I agree with Dean's post. I wouldn't want anyone I cared about to be working along side someone operating machinery while under the influence of anything. If they have been prescribed medical marijuana - that's OK with me - but notify the employer who may want to assign the person to a less potentially dangerous job. Makes sense, doesn't it? Other than that, medicate away...


There are a few like MyOwnMind on here who have no senses, are kids, or just have no logical arguments so attack people instead


Wow, Shredder, I've seen a much different side of you with this comment! It must be because the story's character doesn't have brown skin???

Tony G

Impairment, to any degree, places risk not only to the user, but to the other team members at the facility. Whether it be Medical Marijuana or any prescribed medication that can cause impairment, there is an increased risk of an accident when the user is on any substance that impairs motor function, judgment or both. A person required to use any impairing substance should not operate any mechanical equipment up to and including their own motor vehicle. The only question that remains in this case is whether or not the employee had properly informed his employer of his Medical Marijuana use prior to operating any equipment. If so, I am certain he would not have been allowed to operate a forklift or any other machinery.

In years passed, the term DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) was changed to DUI (Driving Under The Influence). This was done to cover those who got high on substances other than alcohol and got behind the wheel to drive. This broader term also applies to operating mechanical equipment that has the potential to cause injury or death. If you must take anything that impairs, you should not be driving your own vehicle or operating such equipment.


Thank you, Tony G.


What a loser, you deserved to be fired pot head.


You’re a racist....

Wyoming redneck

A case like this went to court in Denver involving a Dish employee. Dish won because they have a national presence, just like Albertsons, and as long as the Federal government considers MJ an illegal drug companies with national presence go by different rules.


As far as finding another job I sure would not hire someone who had an "accident" running a dangerous piece of equipment while high. And I would not want to be working anywhere near him.


I'm sure you're the product of a drug fueled sex party. Smoke some and go on a Sun City rampage. What would that look like? A leaf on the ground?


From your comments you are obviously an idiot pothead endangering peoples lives.

Agustus Gloop

Hey Dean!!!!
From his comment, you can bet he's been in trouble all his life and karma has caught up to him. That's what you taught me, don't agree, don't like, assume and speculate and blame.

Agustus Gloop

Hey Dean!!!!!!
Would you hire me? I'm drug and STD free, resume is current and proves I'm highly qualified. Only problem I see, my epidermis has more melanin than yours (aka my skin is darker than yours).


Hey Gloop, I would hire you in a second if you are truly clean and qualified. How DARE you accuse me of being racist. Only goes to prove that YOU are racist. It is obvious that you have an attitude that would get you fired.


Where in this article does it say he was high? Just cause he tested positive doesn’t mean he was high at the time. Only a dumbass who operates heavy machinery would go to work high. He’s been working there for 21 years. I’m sure he knows better.


He knows better now that he was caught. Come to think of it he does not know better since he thinks he can get cash and spend the rest of his life high. If pot or alcohol is in your blood you are high or buzzed.


He has pot in his blood he should not be working anywhere he is running any equipment. Face it - he is a pothead, his blood may as well be full of alcohol.


as is yours.

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