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ACLU sues firm over denial of internship to medical marijuana user

Posted On: Nov. 14, 2014 12:00 AM CST

An American Civil Liberties Union chapter filed a disability discrimination lawsuit Wednesday alleging a Rhode Island fabrics company refused to hire an internship applicant because of her medical marijuana use.

Christine Callaghan, who is pursuing a master's degree in textiles at the University of Rhode Island, has participated in Rhode Island's medical marijuana program since February 2013 to help her treat debilitating migraine headaches, according to the lawsuit Christine Callaghan vs. Darlington Fabrics Corp. and The Moore Co filed in state superior court in Providence.

A professor referred her to Westerly, Rhode Island-based Darlington Fabrics, a unit of The Moore Corp., for a paid internship position in the company's dye lab, according to the lawsuit.

Ms. Callaghan disclosed to a human resources employee her medical condition and status as a cardholder under Rhode Island's medical marijuana law. She explained she would not bring medical marijuana on the premises, would not come to work after having taken marijuana and offered a copy of her card, according to the lawsuit.

Three days later, she was informed she could not be employed at the company because of her status as a medical marijuana patient. Prior to her disclosure about her use of medical marijuana, “all indications were that Callaghan would have the position,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said among other repercussions of the fabric company's action, Ms. Callaghan's ability to graduate on time was placed in jeopardy because of her having to try to find another internship at the last minute.

The lawsuit charges the company with violating the state's medical marijuana law, which protects qualified users of medical marijuana from employment discrimination. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit was filed on Ms. Callaghan's behalf by the Providence-based American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Rhode Island.

A Darlington Fabrics spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.