Michigan AG Nessel argues employees fired over private marijuana use should still be eligible for unemployment benefits

AG files amicus brief before Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission

FILE - In this March 5, 2020, file photo, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference in Lansing, Mich. Nessel has charged seven people with plotting to target law enforcement and attack state Capitol building. The announcement comes after six others were charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her vacation home in reaction to what they viewed as her "uncontrolled power," according to a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday , Oct. 8, 2020, in federal court. (AP Photo/David Eggert, File) (David Eggert, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has filed an amicus brief on Monday, arguing that a person who is fired for marijuana use outside of their workspace should still be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Nessel filed the brief before the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission addressing three cases. State officials said each case deals with whether an employee should be disqualified from collecting unemployment if they are fired solely for using marijuana during their personal time and not used on the job or employers’ premises during work hours.

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“The people reserved for themselves the personal freedom to consume and cultivate marijuana, and the state cannot deprive an individual of unemployment benefits for simply engaging in this legal activity,” according to the brief by Nessel. “Employers still generally retain their ability to hire and fire at will, but Michigan employees need not question whether their legal, off-duty conduct will leave them without unemployment benefits should an employer exercise that ability. Arguments to the contrary hinge on outmoded understandings of marijuana that the People of Michigan have rejected, once and for all.”

In 2018, Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

“The people spoke loud and clear when they voted in 2018 to legalize marijuana once and for all,” Nessel said. “Nobody over 21 can be penalized or denied any right or privilege solely for legally using marijuana, and employers cannot control their employees’ private lives by calling the legal use of marijuana outside of work hours ‘misconduct’.”

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Read the full brief below.

About the Author:

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.