ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – An Albuquerque man said he was fired from his corrections officer job at the Metro Detention Center because of his medical marijuana prescription.
The Iraq war vet said he was given medical marijuana to treat his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In a lawsuit that’s now reached federal court, he said when the jail found out, he was canned, which his lawyer argues is against the law.
The former jail employee’s attorney told KRQE News 13, that even the fact that the jail tested his client for marijuana is a violation of his rights. However, jail officials say using marijuana as an employee, is a violation of policy.
Augustine Stanley was fired from his job as a corrections officer at MDC last year. The Army Lieutenant and war vet tested positive for marijuana. His lawyer, now representing Stanley in a lawsuit against Bernalillo County said Stanley has a legal medical marijuana card to treat PTSD.
“It’s demonstrative of a lot of people’s cases,” said Paul Livingston, Stanley’s attorney. “And a lot of people work for the state or the county or the city and need to have or want to have a medical marijuana card.”
MDC jail officials said if an employee uses marijuana, it’s a violation of their drug policy, adding, Stanley didn’t self report any prescription drug medication before the test.
But, Livingston claims state law protects the privacy of medical marijuana card holders.
“They guarantee him confidentiality, and what’s ironic is then they give him a test that’s designed to break that confidentiality to show that he is using marijuana and therefore can be fired, and that’s what’s wrong with this,” said Livingston.
Livingston added, his client’s record which spans more than a decade with his jail job is clean, and the medical marijuana he primarily used after work did not affect his duty to do his job well.
“They’re (medical marijuana users) not impaired in any way, the only thing that impairs them is the drug test that says they’re impaired and the conclusion or the presumption that the government makes, which is that if you test positive for marijuana you must be impaired,” said Livingston.
In a termination letter after his drug test, a county jail official told Stanley, “your actions and conduct were inappropriate, unprofessional and inconsistent with your obligations as a Bernalillo County employee.” It’s something Stanley and his lawyer completely disagree with and plan to fight.
“This is a fascinating case and it could go pretty far,” said Livingston.
Stanley wasn’t available Friday for an interview due to his current work schedule. He and his lawyer are fighting to get his MDC job back, plus damages.
Stanley’s attorney said the county created a medical marijuana policy last year without holding public hearings. County jail officials couldn’t comment on the pending case.