The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has few, but broad goals at their organization. Those goals center on legalizing same sex marriage, abolishing the death penalty and drug decriminalization. Beyond their support in states where cannabis has been legalized for recreational and medicinal purposes, they have a broader hope of decriminalizing all drugs. The main mission of the ACLU is to ensure that the civil rights of Americans are not abused. As such, they have engaged in multiple court cases involving cannabis. Through legal action, the ACLU hopes to set precedents in cases that will enforce the laws that states have passed regarding cannabis.
One case recently settled is that of the White Mountain Health Center v. Maricopa County. In 2012, Maricopa County prevented the completion of a dispensary application for a health center targeted at treating senior citizens. The court concluded that the application should be allowed due to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The court also concluded that the medical marijuana act does not violate federal law. The ruling was appealed sending it to the Arizona Court of Appeals to determine if the ruling should be upheld. In December of 2016, the appeals court affirmed the previous ruling.
In another case, the ACLU targeted a widely debated topic. In 2010, a man from Michigan was fired from his job at Walmart for treating a brain tumor and cancer with medical marijuana. The case intended to address the drug policies of private employers within states that have medical marijuana laws. The ACLU contended, “no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical decisions made by employees in consultation with their personal doctor.” Despite the rationale of such a statement, the case did not lean in the ACLU’s favor.
The drug policies of private employers have remained steadfast, in spite of the cannabis laws sweeping the country. Unfortunately, in the case of Casias v. Walmart, the courts found that it was within the rights of the company to fire Mr. Casias for his medical marijuana usage. The ruling highlights a broader issue. Such circumstances do not only happen in cases of marijuana usage, but also other cases of patient’s using legally prescribed drugs, even if those drugs are not being used on site or causing impairment during the workday.
Regardless of the work already done, there is still much progress left to be made in not only decriminalizing drugs, including cannabis, but providing representation for patients who have a right to treat themselves. As the former National Director of the ACLU overseeing mass incarceration Alison Holcomb noted, the ACLU hoped that with the legalization of marijuana, the door should be open to reconsidering all of our drug policies in the United States.