Legal Use of Marijuana Clashes With Job Rules
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Legal Use of Marijuana Clashes With Job Rules
Posted by CN Staff on September 08, 2014 at 05:30:34 PT
By Jack Healy
Source: New York Times
Denver -- Brandon Coats knew he was going to fail his drug test. Paralyzed in a car crash when he was 16, he had been using medical marijuana since 2009 to relieve the painful spasms that jolted his body. But he smoked mostly at night, and said marijuana had never hurt his performance answering customer calls for a Colorado satellite-television provider.So when his employer, Dish Network, asked Mr. Coats to take a random drug screen, he was not surprised when the test came back positive for marijuana. He told his bosses why, but when he got to work the following week, he said, “my card wouldn’t open up the door.” He was fired for violating the company’s drug-free workplace rules, despite having a medical marijuana card.
“There are a lot of people out there who need jobs, can do a good job, but in order for them to live their lives, they have to have this,” said Mr. Coats, who is 35. “A person can drink all night long, be totally hung over the next day and go to work and there’s no problem with it.”But when it comes to marijuana, Mr. Coats and other users are discovering that marijuana’s recent strides toward the legal and cultural mainstream are running aground at the office. Even as 23 states allow medical or recreational marijuana, employment experts say that most businesses are keeping their drug-free policies. The result is a clash between a culture that increasingly accepts marijuana and companies that will fire employees who use it.Even in Colorado and Washington, the country’s most marijuana-friendly states, a glance at online classified ads lays out an unwelcome landscape for marijuana smokers. “Please do not apply if you are NOT drug free or carry a medical marijuana card,” warns one job listing for a mechanic in Denver. A Chevrolet dealership in the suburb of Aurora tells applicants, “We do screen for medical or recreational marijuana.” In Seattle, a recycling company looking for a welder cautions that they are a “zero-tolerance company including marijuana!!”Employers and business groups say the screenings identify drug-abusing workers, create a safer workplace, lower their insurance costs and, in some cases, are required by law. But marijuana advocates say the prohibitions amount to discrimination, either against people using marijuana to treat a medical condition or against people who smoke it because they simply have the legal right to do so, off the clock and away from the office.“It wasn’t like I was getting high on the job,” Mr. Coats said. “I would smoke right before I go to bed, and that little bit would help me get through my days.”On Sept. 30, he will take that argument before the Colorado Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging his 2010 firing. For years, courts in Colorado and across the country have ruled against marijuana users, saying that companies have the right to create their own drug policies. But legal experts say that if Mr. Coats prevails — he lost 2-1 in an appellate ruling — his case could transform how businesses must treat marijuana users.Mr. Coats’s lawyer, Michael Evans, argues that Mr. Coats’s use of medical marijuana should fall under a state law that prohibits companies from firing workers for legal, off-duty activities that might rankle an employer. Dish Network argues that smoking marijuana can hardly be considered legal because it breaks federal law.If Dish loses the case, the company wrote in a brief to the court, “Dish (and every other Colorado employer) can no longer maintain a drug-free policy” and companies across the state could risk losing federal contracts because they no longer complied with federal drug-free workplace laws.After Colorado voted in 2012 to allow adults to buy, sell and grow their own recreational marijuana, scarcely any businesses relaxed their own rules, according to a survey by the Mountain States Employers Council, which represents 3,500 companies. Seventy-one percent left their drug-testing policies in place, and 21 percent actually imposed stricter rules.“People were scared they were going to have a stoned work force,” said Curtis Graves, a staff lawyer for the group.A survey by Quest Diagnostics, which conducts millions of drug tests across the country, found that positive results for marijuana rose in both Colorado and Washington in the year after legalization measures passed. In Colorado, the number of urine samples testing positive for marijuana rose to 2.3 percent in 2013 from 1.92 percent in 2012. In Washington, the rates rose to 2.38 percent from 1.94.A positive test result can derail a career, say people who have been fired for marijuana use. In New Mexico, a physician assistant named Donna Smith who had used medical marijuana to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder lost her health care job in February after failing a drug test.The health care provider where she had been working, Presbyterian Health Services, said Ms. Smith had worked for an outside staffing agency and had a temporary assignment with Presbyterian. One condition of that work was a drug screen. “Presbyterian is committed to patient safety and we believe that a drug-free workplace is a key component,” Presbyterian said in a statement.Ms. Smith, who is suing Presbyterian, said she had been able to find only one sporadic job since then, and has cashed out an I.R.A. and spent her savings. “I can’t find any work,” she said.Recently a handful of businesses in Colorado cautiously opened up to marijuana, said Mr. Graves of the Mountain States Employers Council. They decided their fears were overblown, and have asked the group to help them revise their drug-testing policies to remove marijuana from the mix.In Washington State, the Titus-Will network of car dealerships and service centers now tells job applicants they will have to pass a “pre-employment profile test, background check and drug screen (excluding marijuana).” In Colorado, a handful of technology and marketing firms that do not test for drugs have told their employees: Do what you want off the clock, but come to work sober and alert.Even the marijuana industry has grappled with whether to drug-test its employees. Outlawing marijuana use would be the height of hypocrisy. But in a closely scrutinized industry that deals with huge amounts of cash, potent doses of cannabis oil and marijuana-laced foods, businesses say their workers cannot be stoned at work.At Open Vape, which sells marijuana vaporizers, employees take a computer test to determine their baseline cognitive skills. If a worker comes back from a break red-eyed and acting hazy, the company has them take the test, to see if anything is amiss.“Just as we wouldn’t want folks going out and having a two- to three-martini lunch, we shouldn’t have folks going out and smoking a joint during lunch,” said David Kochman, the company’s general counsel.But the message has not gotten through to everyone. Todd Mitchem, who runs a marijuana consulting business, said he recently got a phone call from an man interested in attending a marijuana job fair called CannaSearch in Denver later this month. But the applicant had one question: Would there be a room where people could smoke pot?“The answer is no,” Mr. Mitchem said. “You can’t do that at the job fair.”A version of this article appears in print on September 8, 2014, on page A11 of the New York edition with the headline: Legal Use of Marijuana Clashes With Job Rules. Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Jack HealyPublished: September 8, 2014Copyright: 2014 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite:  Medical Marijuana  Archives 
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on September 11, 2014 at 10:00:30 PT
You are welcome, Oleg.
'Tis Robert Burns. A Scotsman.I meant to include this url:
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Comment #5 posted by Oleg the Tumor on September 11, 2014 at 08:07:09 PT
Hope #2  Thank you.
As the world watches Scotland make its bid for independance next week, I read this and am struck by its relevance and timing. This piece rings as true now as it did when it was written. Who wrote this?There comes a time when your association with a criminal makes you a criminal as well. This is what Scotland (and everyone else who values personal integrity) fears.Three insolvent banks have threatened to leave Scotland if the "Yes" side wins. They should have done this years ago.The fact is: Cannabis means JOBS! Jobs in biofuels, paper, plastics, etc, etc.WE NEED THIS NEW INDUSTRY AND WE NEED IT NOW!FREE THE PRISONER OF SCHEDULE ONE! 
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Comment #4 posted by The GCW on September 08, 2014 at 20:08:18 PT
I also screen.
This too, this discrimination will also pass.The bad people will be able to do this today but cannabis is legal in Colorado and those days of discriminating against citizens who use the God-given plant will come to an end.Hey, Presbyterian Health Services, You hear that? God-given plant as told on literally the very 1st page of the Bible! !!!-0-I also screen. When I'm aware of a company like Dish Network that discriminates against people who use cannabis, especially a Paralyzed employee, I'm not going to be using that companies services.I urge other citizens to screen companies who discriminate against people who use cannabis.If a person can drink booze after work... If a person can use class A narcotics for pain....
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on September 08, 2014 at 10:15:28 PT
After getting past the Dish Network travesty...
this is an interesting and, so far, rather sensible, informative, and even thoughtful article. Things have been interesting out of the old gray lady recently. Lots more of the truth about cannabis and cannabis prohibition, mainly.This does not seem unreasonable, "“Just as we wouldn’t want folks going out and having a two- to three-martini lunch, we shouldn’t have folks going out and smoking a joint during lunch,” said David Kochman, the company’s general counsel."
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on September 08, 2014 at 09:26:26 PT
Man's inhumanity to man.....
Man Was Made To Mourn: A Dirge1784
Type: DirgeWhen chill November's surly blast 
Made fields and forests bare, 
One ev'ning, as I wander'd forth 
Along the banks of Ayr, 
I spied a man, whose aged step 
Seem'd weary, worn with care; 
His face furrow'd o'er with years, 
And hoary was his hair. "Young stranger, whither wand'rest thou?" 
Began the rev'rend sage; 
"Does thirst of wealth thy step constrain, 
Or youthful pleasure's rage? 
Or haply, prest with cares and woes, 
Too soon thou hast began 
To wander forth, with me to mourn 
The miseries of man. "The sun that overhangs yon moors, 
Out-spreading far and wide, 
Where hundreds labour to support 
A haughty lordling's pride;- 
I've seen yon weary winter-sun 
Twice forty times return; 
And ev'ry time has added proofs, 
That man was made to mourn. "O man! while in thy early years, 
How prodigal of time! 
Mis-spending all thy precious hours- 
Thy glorious, youthful prime! 
Alternate follies take the sway; 
Licentious passions burn; 
Which tenfold force gives Nature's law. 
That man was made to mourn. "Look not alone on youthful prime, 
Or manhood's active might; 
Man then is useful to his kind, 
Supported in his right: 
But see him on the edge of life, 
With cares and sorrows worn; 
Then Age and Want-oh! ill-match'd pair- 
Shew man was made to mourn. "A few seem favourites of fate, 
In pleasure's lap carest; 
Yet, think not all the rich and great 
Are likewise truly blest: 
But oh! what crowds in ev'ry land, 
All wretched and forlorn, 
Thro' weary life this lesson learn, 
That man was made to mourn. "Many and sharp the num'rous ills 
Inwoven with our frame! 
More pointed still we make ourselves, 
Regret, remorse, and shame! 
And man, whose heav'n-erected face 
The smiles of love adorn, - 
Man's inhumanity to man 
Makes countless thousands mourn! "See yonder poor, o'erlabour'd wight, 
So abject, mean, and vile, 
Who begs a brother of the earth 
To give him leave to toil; 
And see his lordly fellow-worm 
The poor petition spurn, 
Unmindful, tho' a weeping wife 
And helpless offspring mourn. "If I'm design'd yon lordling's slave, 
By Nature's law design'd, 
Why was an independent wish 
E'er planted in my mind? 
If not, why am I subject to 
His cruelty, or scorn? 
Or why has man the will and pow'r 
To make his fellow mourn? "Yet, let not this too much, my son, 
Disturb thy youthful breast: 
This partial view of human-kind 
Is surely not the last! 
The poor, oppressed, honest man 
Had never, sure, been born, 
Had there not been some recompense 
To comfort those that mourn! "O Death! the poor man's dearest friend, 
The kindest and the best! 
Welcome the hour my aged limbs 
Are laid with thee at rest! 
The great, the wealthy fear thy blow 
From pomp and pleasure torn; 
But, oh! a blest relief for those 
That weary-laden mourn!"
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Comment #1 posted by Hope on September 08, 2014 at 09:21:52 PT
The grossness and obtuseness of the warriors
against cannabis use is just stunning. Always has been. When are they ever going to stop with the ignorance, cruelty, and injustice?
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