Voters in Michigan, Utah and Missouri passed marijuana-related ballot measures in the November 2018 elections.  Each of these measures recognizes that marijuana remains a controlled substance, and illegal, under federal law, and that authorized users, growers, physicians, and any others who properly support or participate in these programs will be shielded from liability only under state law.
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On May 21, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in a split decision that the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) does not bar discrimination based on marijuana use unless that use is authorized under federal law.  In James v. City of Costa Mesa, No. 10–55769, the court held that even marijuana use under a doctor’s supervision in accordance with state law was not protected under the ADA.  The court held that the ADA excludes illegal drug users from its definition of qualified individuals with a disability.  Although generally-applicable California drug laws carve out an exception for uses of marijuana for medical purposes under doctor supervision, there are no such exceptions to the federal Controlled Substances Act.  Since the ADA defines “illegal drug use” by reference to federal law, and the federal law does not authorize marijuana use for medical purposes, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that discrimination in the provision of public services based on marijuana use was not prohibited by the ADA.


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