Workers Can Be Fired for Using Med Pot Off Duty

Workers Can Be Fired for Using Med Pot Off Duty
Posted by CN Staff on January 25, 2008 at 05:40:15 PT
By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Source: Los Angeles Times
San Francisco, CA -- The California Supreme Court weakened the effect of the state's beleaguered medical marijuana law, ruling Thursday that employers may fire workers for using physician-recommended marijuana while off duty, even if it did not hurt their job performance.Supporters of medical marijuana immediately criticized the court's 5-2 ruling, saying it undermined the 1996 law, which prohibits the state from criminalizing the medical use of the drug.
Hundreds of medical marijuana users have complained that they have been fired, threatened with termination or not hired by California companies because of their drug use, according to one advocacy group. In siding with employers, the California Supreme Court said the Compassionate Use Act passed by voters and later amended by the Legislature imposed no requirements on employers. "The Compassionate Use Act does not eliminate marijuana's potential for abuse or the employer's legitimate interest in whether an employee uses the drug," Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote for the majority.Justice Joyce L. Kennard called the decision "conspicuously lacking in compassion.""The majority's holding disrespects the will of California's voters," wrote Kennard, whose dissent was joined by Justice Carlos R. Moreno.The voters "surely never intended that persons who availed themselves" of the medical marijuana act "would thereby disqualify themselves from employment," Kennard said.Within hours of the court's decision, Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced that he would introduce legislation to prevent employers from discriminating against medical marijuana users."The people of California did not intend that patients be unemployed in order to use medical marijuana," he said.The court majority upheld the firing of Gary Ross, an Air Force veteran whose doctor recommended marijuana for chronic back pain stemming from an injury in the military and whose disability qualified him for government benefits.Ross, 45, was hired by RagingWire Telecommunications Inc. in 2001 as a systems engineer.Before taking a required drug test, Ross provided a copy of his physician's recommendation for marijuana.The company fired him a week after he started the job because his test revealed that he had used marijuana.Ross sued the company on the grounds that it failed to accommodate his disability as required under a state anti-discrimination law. He contended that he had worked without any problems at other jobs in the same field since becoming a medical marijuana user.Lower courts, however, sided with the employer."All I am asking is to be a productive member of society," Ross said in a written statement. "I was not fired for poor work performance but for an antiquated policy on medical marijuana."Stewart Katz, Ross' lawyer, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the majority's ruling "because of what the political realities are." He said the ruling could be overturned by a legislative amendment to the marijuana law.Ross, who continues to use medical marijuana, is now employed in another field.His lawyer refused to disclose his current occupation because his employer "is not terribly tolerant."Attorney Robert M. Pattison, who represented RagingWire Telecommunications, a Sacramento data center, said the ruling resolved questions that have troubled employers about the use of medical marijuana and did "not at all" eviscerate the marijuana law."In fact, the court makes it clear that the point here is the medical marijuana law doesn't address employment," Pattison said.California is one of 12 states with medical marijuana laws. At least one of them, Rhode Island, specifically protects workers from being fired for their medical use of the drug, said Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group."The court is claiming that California voters intended to permit medical use of marijuana, but only if you're willing to be unemployed and on welfare," Mirken said. "That is ridiculous on its face, as well as cruel."Joseph D. Elford, chief counsel of Americans for Safe Access, which argued the case on behalf of Ross, predicted the ruling would spark an increase in employer sanctions against medical marijuana users.His group already has reported hundreds of complaints of discrimination by employers.Medical marijuana patients may now be forced "to go underground and to forgo using marijuana before a drug test," he said.Traces of marijuana can linger in the body for weeks after its use, long after the patient has stopped using the drug, advocates said.Ross' lawsuit might have prevailed if the state's law gave marijuana the same legal status as prescription drugs, the court majority said.The law could not have done that because the drug remains illegal under federal law, the majority said.The two dissenting justices argued that the medical marijuana law protected patients from criminal prosecution and "sanction," which would include job termination. They said Ross did not seek to possess or use marijuana at work.They also contended that the majority would not have ruled against Ross if he had been taking other doctor-approved drugs that might affect work performance, such as Vicodin, Ritalin and Valium, as well as many over-the-counter cold remedies.Adam Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project, said at least one part of the ruling should be welcomed by the medical marijuana movement.The decision made clear that California could protect medical marijuana users from job discrimination, despite federal law, if the Legislature or voters chose to amend the law."Let us hope, then, that this ruling serves to silence those who insist that California must march in lock-step with the federal government's ill-considered medical marijuana ban," Wolf said.Although there was no evidence in the case that medical marijuana impaired Ross from doing his job, many employers, workers and customers want "a drug-free workplace," said Deborah LaFetra, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a group that advocates limited government and argued on behalf of the employer in the case."Drug-using employees are known to have impaired abilities, both mental and physical, that can alter their judgment and other necessary skills for their work," she said.Note: Patients under doctor's care can be dismissed, even if marijuana use occurs during off hours, high court rules.Times staff writer Eric Bailey contributed to this report.Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author: Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Published: January 25, 2008Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Americans For Safe Access Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Marijuana Ruling Pot Use Can Get You Fired
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on January 25, 2008 at 23:36:57 PT
You have to sign for it here and show your driver's license and there is a limit, one third of what my doctor prescribed dosage is, to what you can buy in a one month period. 
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on January 25, 2008 at 23:21:18 PT
Half Benedryl, half Sudafed?
Weird. Because neither one of them, alone, gave me relief. Drixoral never threw me for a loop at all... but I do know people that it has. Nothing else, any prescription or over the counter ever helped me like Drixoral does but I've had people tell me it makes them feel strange or jumpy.Sorry about dragging you away from the point you were trying to make... which is very valid.
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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on January 25, 2008 at 22:16:21 PT
I've taken Drixoral too - it's half Benadryl, half Sudafed. I just go up to the counter and ask for it. It can send your brain for a loop if you're not used to it.
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Comment #4 posted by Hope on January 25, 2008 at 10:58:21 PT
The only thing that ever controlled my severe allergies, and without any noticeable side effects, except RELIEF, for me. It was prescription the first decade or so that I took it. Of course... it's on the psuedoephedrine list now.:0(It gave me back all the aspects of a good life that acute allergies took away, but I know there are people that it doesn't agree with. Of course, I know nothing about methamphetamine and making it... but I still have a hard time believing that meth cooks ground up Drixoral to use for their product when they could empty capsules of Sudafed powder. But I don't know. I'm just angry and sad that such an important medicine for some people has been put in the position it's in now.
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Comment #3 posted by Max Flowers on January 25, 2008 at 10:38:11 PT
Amend To Defend
The decision made clear that California could protect medical marijuana users from job discrimination, despite federal law, if the Legislature or voters chose to amend the law.Oh don't worry, we will... we will. Bank on it.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on January 25, 2008 at 07:44:02 PT
How about Benadryl? Anyone ever try to work on Benadryl, or Drixoral? What about Ambien? Zoloft? Prozac? Flexeril? Legal qualudes, legal meth, legal cocaine, legal heroin, and legal methadone? What about those?As long as you Pledge Allegiance to God, Country, Big Pharma, and your AMA masters, everything is swell.
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Comment #1 posted by ripit on January 25, 2008 at 07:10:12 PT:
now would all these...
companys fire ppl who are working while using drugs like vicodin after getting injured away from work and such? opiates impare ppl a lot more than cannabis don't they? yet if they test pos they more than likely would look the other way?
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