February 6, 2024

Contact: Stephanie Gomory, Communications Director, ACLU of Vermont

[email protected], 802-223-6304 x111 

MONTPELIER, Vt. – In an amicus brief filed at the Vermont Supreme Court last week, the ACLU of Vermont asserts that the State may not withhold unemployment benefits from individuals simply because they used medical cannabis off-duty—even when an employer may prohibit cannabis use generally or the federal government requires drug testing. The brief was submitted by the ACLU along with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform and Disability Rights Vermont. 

ACLU Staff Attorney Harrison Stark: “Vermont policymakers have made clear that legal cannabis users should not be punished under state law. Legal, off-duty medical marijuana use cannot, by itself, justify the denial of unemployment or other state benefits. Further penalizing someone for using a substance they have a legal right to use—often to treat chronic medical conditions and disabilities—makes no sense. The federal government may still be fighting the failed war on drugs, but that doesn’t mean Vermont should be.” 

Rutland resident Ivo Skoric has a State-issued medical cannabis card to treat a debilitating condition. Mr. Skoric worked as a bus fueler/washer for a regional transit authority. He lost his job because Federal Department of Transportation regulations required his employer to terminate him after he tested positive for cannabis. 

When Mr. Skoric applied for state-based unemployment, the Vermont Department of Labor denied him a portion of his benefits. In its view, Mr. Skoric had engaged in alleged “misconduct” under state law—even though he had tested positive only because he used state-approved medical cannabis pursuant to a valid prescription. 

18 V.S.A. § 4230a(a)(1) specifically provides that legal cannabis users like Mr. Skoric “shall not be penalized or sanctioned in any manner by the State or any of its political subdivisions or denied any right or privilege under State law.” The ACLU’s amicus brief argues that even if an employer has a policy against marijuana, off-duty use of State-authorized marijuana to treat debilitating conditions like Mr. Skoric’s should not count as “misconduct” that disqualifies someone from unemployment benefits. 

Find a copy of the amicus brief here