Case Results

NC Worker fired for use of Legal Hemp- Case Settled

December 2023

North Carolina law protects workers from discrimination based upon their lawful use of legal substances. 

We recently settled a case for a worker who was terminated from their job for testing positive for THC (the psychoactive ingredient of "marijuana") after a minor workplace accident. After our demand letter received no response, we filed an administrative complaint with the North Carolina Dept. of Labor, alleging that our client was terminated unlawfully in retaliation for making a report of his minor injury and for complaining about inadequate safety equipment. When the former employer responded with an assertion that the client was in fact terminated consistent with company policy based upon his testing positive for THC, we countered that the only THC our client could have had in their body would have been from consumption of legal industrial hemp, and that he was protected under North Carolina law. We were able to settle the administrative complaint through the former employer's payment of damages to our client, and a reasonable attorney fee. 

Hemp is legal and is defined under North Carolina Law

Most people understand that hemp and CBD products are legal in North Carolina. "Hemp" is nearly indistinguishable from illegal "Marijuana".  Both are cannabis. The difference is the percentage of Delta-9 THC the product contains. Delta-9 THC is the psychoactive/intoxicating ingredient in marijuana.  Cannabis is legal industrial hemp if it contains less than .03% Delta-9 THC by weight. Many hemp products are used for the CBD content. CBD is widely reputed to have anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic uses. However, even CBD-forward legal industrial hemp may contain up to .03% Delta-9 THC. This means that folks who are using consumable hemp products may test "positive" for "THC" if they take a drug test.

Hemp Products are readily available and sold for consumption

Hemp stores abound in North Carolina. Legal industrial hemp is available for purchase across the street from the Wake County courthouse, and at retail locations throughout the state. Stores also sell a product called THCA, a form of THC that is different that Delta-9 THC. THCA is intoxicating, and is indistinguishable from Delta-9 THC in a drug test. Despite this legality, workers in North Carolina continue to face discrimination for use of legal industrial hemp based upon policies aimed at the consumption of illegal "marijuana." 

A worker fired for testing positive for THC may have legal remedies

A worker who has only used legal hemp products may have legal remedies if they are discriminated against by an employer. Two different federal judges have ruled that the North Carolina law (which we understand was passed in response to company's discriminating against tobacco users because of health care costs) may very well protect users of legal industrial hemp products. One judge has ruled that the assertion of lawful hemp use created a viable cause of action for a worker who was fired for a THC positive drug test, and another judge has ruled that the assertion is sufficient to survive a summary judgment ruling. These are legally significant rulings, that resulted in cases that were settled by employers who were not willing to assume the cost and risks of litigation. 

If you or a loved one was fired after a positive THC test, and only ever used legal industrial hemp products from legitimate retail locations, you may have legal recourse. Give me a call or fill out the contact form in the sidebar to schedule a consultation. Attorney Sean Cecil has been involved in hemp and cannabis issues for many years and is a longstanding member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) legal committee. 

Practice area(s): Employment / Labor

Court: NC Department of Labor

Sean P. Cecil

Sean is an experienced advocate dedicated to justice for all people. He believes that individual human rights outweigh the freedom to make an easy dollar.