ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Donna Smith, a veteran who served our country with distinction, and who is a licensed physician’s assistant was recently terminated from her position with Presbyterian Health Services due to her enrollment in the state’s medical marijuana program.
“As both a patient and a healthcare provider, I am deeply disappointed by Presbyterian Healthcare Systems’ decision to terminate me for nothing more than my enrollment in New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program," said Smith.
On February 17, 2014, Ms. Smith was hired by Presbyterian Health Care Services. Four days later, Presbyterian fired her for testing positive for marijuana. When she provided them with her state-issued medical marijuana card, they informed her that they did not recognize it and that her termination would stand. The lawsuit has just been filed in state court for violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NM Statute § 28-1-7).
“No private corporation is above the laws of our state,” said her attorney, Jason Flores-Williams. “As part of our state and part of our community, they must respect state laws that prohibit this kind of employment discrimination.”
“Current pharmaceutical cocktails have limited efficacy for PTSD, can have significant debilitating side effects, and have in many cases proven deadly,” said Lisa Walker, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist. “Given these facts, along with the experience of thousands of patients whose quality of life has been improved by medical marijuana, it should continue to be an available treatment for those suffering. Patients deserve, above all, the freedom to choose the safest and most effective treatment for their disabling conditions.”
More than 11,000 New Mexican residents are actively enrolled in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program and nearly 4,000 of them live in Bernalillo County. Many are military veterans, patients living with disabilities, and victims of serious trauma and violent crime. New Mexico’s medical marijuana program is considered a nationwide model – in 2007 New Mexico became the first state to develop and implement a state-licensed medical marijuana production and distribution system.
“This company should be ashamed to be preventing people who are suffering from accessing the medicine that works for them,” says Jessica Gelay, policy coordinator for Drug Policy Alliance in New Mexico. “Many people in our state’s medical marijuana program find that they are able to return to the workforce, when before they were too sick to be employed. It is unconscionable that an employer – especially one that is a healthcare provider – would prohibit their employees from using a safe, effective, and legal medicine. As long as it does not undermine their job performance, employees should be able to use medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions.”
Contact DPA’s New Mexico Policy Coordinator, Jessica Gelay, with any questions.