Presbyterian sued after firing physician’s assistant for using medical marijuana

Created: 06/12/2014 6:30 PM
By: Kai Porter, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A New Mexico physician's assistant is suing Presbyterian Healthcare Services. Donna Smith claims her rights were violated when she was fired for using medical marijuana.

Smith was on the job only four days as a physician’s assistant at Presbyterian’s north side urgent care in Albuquerque.

She was fired in February after testing positive for marijuana, something she said she never used on the job.

"I use it for sleep because that's where I have the most difficulty for my PTSD."

She’s a military veteran who's been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and she uses medical marijuana to treat her symptoms. She said Presbyterian violated her rights, and damaged her career.

"I just feel like it is discriminatory and they should honor it just as they do for any other medication or any other diagnoses," she said during a Skype interview with KOB Eyewitness News 4.

She said she was blindsided when she was let go.

"I was really quite surprised. One, I am a legal patient with the New Mexico Cannabis Program. Two, it's discriminatory. They recognize other medications and they honor those. And I don't understand why they wouldn't do that for this medication."

In a statement Presbyterian said, "We do not comment on ongoing litigation. The use of medical marijuana is not recognized by federal law. Presbyterian has a mandate under federal law to provide a drug free workplace. Presbyterian is committed to patient safety and we believe that a drug free workplace is a key component of patient safety."

Smith said she doesn’t agree with that statement.

"This is not a drug. This is a medication. Just as any other medication that any other patient may take."

Smith’s lawyer, Jason Flores-Williams, said in the past, courts have sided with the employers on this issue. But he believes we've reached a tipping point as a society and said this could be landmark case for civil rights.

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