ACLU settles medical marijuana discrimination case

PROVIDENCE – The ACLU of Rhode Island on Thursday said it has settled a lawsuit filed in 2014 against Darlington Fabrics Corp. over its failure to hire a registered medical marijuana patient for a summer internship.

Under the settlement, the Westerly-based company has agreed to pay plaintiff Christine Callaghan $3,500 in back pay and compensatory damages, and to pay attorneys’ fees, according to the ACLU. The company has also agreed to amend its drug use policy to consider applicants who are authorized medical marijuana cardholders.

R.I. Superior Court Justice Richard Licht in 2017 found that the company discriminated against Callaghan, then a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, by not considering her for a paid internship the state’s medical marijuana program. Callaghan had noted during the interview she could not pass a drug test due to the use of medical marijuana. The company said then it could not continue with the interview and did not hire her, the ACLU said.

In its decision, the court said the state’s medical marijuana law, which bars discrimination in employment against “cardholders,” applies to job applicants such as Callaghan. After the ruling, the parties agreed to try to work out a settlement before the court set a trial for damages.

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“I am hopeful that this settlement will put other employers on notice that discrimination against medical marijuana patients is both inappropriate and unlawful,” said ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown.

A Darlington spokesperson did not immediately return a call seeking comment.