Pennsylvania Appellate Court Affirms State Medical Marijuana Law Provides Private Right Of Action

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The Pennsylvania Superior Court has found, as a matter of first impression, that medical marijuana users may maintain a private action under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (MMA), including a wrongful discharge action.  See Scranton Quincy Clinic Company, LLC, et al. v. Pamela Palmiter, Case No. 498 MDA 2020 (Pa. Super. Ct. Aug. 5, 2021).  As we previously discussed in our summary of the trial court’s decision, the MMA expressly prohibits employers from discharging, or otherwise discriminating or retaliating against an employee solely on the basis  of the employee’s status as an individual who is certified to use medical marijuana. However, it does not create an express private right of action.

The Court determined that the General Assembly “proclaimed a public policy” prohibiting employers from discriminating against medical marijuana users. Adopting the trial court’s reasoning, the Court further found an implied right under a three-part analysis: (1) whether the plaintiff is one of the class for whose “especial” benefit the statute was enacted; (2) whether there is any indication of legislative intent, explicit or implicit, to create or deny such a remedy; and (3) whether it is consistent with the underlying purposes of the legislative scheme to imply such a cause of action.

The Court also affirmed the trial court’s finding that the MMA can support a claim for wrongful discharge, explaining that the MMA does not provide statutory remedies for aggrieved employees through its administrative enforcement provisions, but the MMA evinces a clear public policy against termination of employment based on medical marijuana use off company premises.

In light of the Court’s decision, Pennsylvania employers should exercise caution when taking adverse action against medical marijuana users.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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