Muriel Bowser

DC Worker Sues City to Be Allowed to Use Medical Marijuana

A government employee is suing Washington, D.C., to get her job back after she was told she can’t go back to work until she stops using medical marijuana.

Doretha Barber’s job for the Department of Public Works is classified as safety sensitive, but she doesn’t drive a vehicle or operate heavy equipment. She started as an office assistant, then became a sanitation worker. She rakes leaves in the fall and spreads salt on icy sidewalks in winter.

Last year she told her supervisor she was legally using medical marijuana when she wasn’t at work for her extreme back pain and migraines so severe she can’t see or lift her head up.

After trying prescription pain killers and muscle relaxants that didn’t work, Barber’s doctor recommended medical marijuana, which finally provided relief.

Even though she never went to work under the influence, she said she was told she couldn’t go back to work until she not only stopped using medical pot but could pass a drug test. She said she was also told to get drug abuse counseling

“I don’t have a substance abuse problem, and it made me feel like they were putting me in a category that I didn’t belong in,” Barber said.

Barber, with the help of the ACLU of D.C., is suing to be allowed to go back to work and use medical marijuana in her off time. She wants the District to treat medical marijuana just like any prescribed medication

“Otherwise what your doing is effectively putting employees like Miss Barber to the choice between their medicine and their job, and that’s just not fair,” said Scott Michelman, legal co-director of ACLU of D.C.

Mayor Muriel Bowser wouldn’t comment specifically on the pending lawsuit.

“There are some jobs that fit in that safety sensitive requirement,” she said.

“That’s totally disingenuous,” Michelman said. “First of all, because they’ve been over classifying people as safety sensitive.”

Of the approximately 35,000 D.C. government employees, about 11,000 have been designated as having safety sensitive jobs and are prohibited from using medical marijuana, according to the mayor’s office.

According to the ACLU, seven states allow all government employees to use medical marijuana just like any prescription drug unless it is prohibited by federal law.

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