Donna Smith, a physician’s assistant with the staffing agency Advantage Locums, is suing Presbyterian Healthcare System in New Mexico after she was fired over a positive drug test. Although Smith is a card carrying medical marijuana user who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of her time in the military, Presbyterian felt her positive drug test endangered the drug-free work environment they have created and made the decision to tell her staffing agency they no longer needed her service.
“As both a patient and a health care provider, I am deeply disappointed by Presbyterian Healthcare System's decision to terminate me for nothing more than my enrollment in New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program," Smith said, according to Hemp News. Smith and her attorney Jason Flores-Williams are now seeking legal action for wrongful termination, claiming the decision was a form of discrimination against a person with a serious medical condition, which is covered under the New Mexico Human Rights Act. Drug Policy Alliance in New Mexico representative Jessica Gelay said company policies that take into account the state’s medical marijuana program and employees’ right under the New Mexico Human Rights Act are not up to date.
“Donna is in 110 percent compliance with New Mexico state law,” Flores-Williams told CBS affiliate KRQE. “It’s Presbyterian who is out of compliance with New Mexico state law. I guess they just don’t feel like they need to follow the laws of our state. If it was up to Presbyterian, they would simply just bankrupt us and never even have one day in court but the one thing we're going to do is we're going to have our day in court. That’s the one thing I’m guaranteeing to Donna.”
Flores-Williams said his client was hired by Presbyterian in February and fired four days later over a positive drug test. He considers the decision to fire Smith “absolute hypocrisy,” seeing as employees are free to indulge in alcohol, antidepressants, and Adderall outside of the office, but not medically prescribed marijuana. While medical marijuana production and distribution was implemented in New Mexico in 2007, it is still illegal under federal law.
"Donna Smith, a physician’s assistant, worked for an outside staffing agency – Advantage Locums – and was going to work an assignment at a Presbyterian facility," Kristen Krebs, Director of Public Policy and Communications at Presbyteria, told Medical Daily in an email. "She was not applying to be, nor was she, a direct employee of Presbyterian Healthcare Services, and was not terminated from any such position. Upon learning of the positive test for marijuana, Presbyterian informed the staffing agency that we did not wish to continue her assignment at Presbyterian. Presbyterian did not ask Ms. Smith’s outside staffing agency to terminate its employment of her. Employees and contracted personnel (including Ms. Smith) who work in clinical settings at Presbyterian Healthcare Services are required to take a drug test. The use of medical marijuana is not recognized by federal law and 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."