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California Medical Marijuana Users Can Be Fired

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, January 25, 2008 10:23 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Medical Devices, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Workplace Discrimination, Workplace Injuries



Medical marijuana users can be fired from the job according to a California Supreme Court decision. 


Gary Ross used to smoke marijuana when he was off the job. 

His doctor recommended he do so to relieve chronic back pain from the fracture of three lumbar vertebrae that happened iin 1983 when he fell off the wing of an F-16 working as an Air Force mechanic. 

The disabled veteran says the smoking relieves the spasm in his back and he doesn’t need pain medication, allowing him to stay on the job at RagingWire Inc., a Sacramento computer data storage business.  Without the occasional smoke, he’s been carted off in the ambulance a half dozen times.

But Ross, 45, doesn’t have that job anymore.  His boss fired him after a company drug test came up positive. The California Supreme Court says he can be fired, even with a note from the doctor.

The 5 to 2 ruling comes from the state that first legalized cannabis for medical purposes.  It means that Ross, or any one of the other 200,000 Californians who use medical marijuana and are fired from the job, cannot sue their employer for unlawful discrimination.

It’s a difficult question.  The drug is still considered illegal and companies can be held liable if an employee is drinking or doing drugs on the job. Liability is the push behind the "drug-free workplace". The Pacific Legal Foundation made that argument in support of the company.

Then there is the Compassionate Use Act, passed by California voters in 1996, that to “ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”

Medical marijuana goes directly to relieving pain rather than creating a high, practitioners say.

The state legislature redefined the law in 2004 when it mentioned the rights of employers,  lawyers for the company argued.

The Supreme Court ruling means that a lower court decision that dismissed Ross’ case against the company will stand. 

A group supporting access to medical marijuana says it will continue the fight in the state legislature. 

"All I am asking is to be a productive member of society," said plaintiff Gary Ross. "I was not fired for poor work performance, but for an antiquated policy on medical marijuana,” continued Ross. “This practice allows employers to undermine state law and the protections provided for patients.”

"We as an organization are not going to give up at this point,'' Kris Hermes, legal campaign director for Americans for Safe Access, said in a phone interview. ``We are going to the state Legislature seeking redress there.''   #





Anonymous User
Posted by Jane Akre
Saturday, January 26, 2008 1:28 AM EST

Hi All-

Just some editorial comments if I may. This story really struck me. Compassionate use act goes by the wayside for the passion for profit. Do we really not care about people who are in such pain that they need to turn to medical marijuana just to cope? Does the CA Supreme Court and the legislature not understand the issue and can create some provisions that differentiate a user for medical purposes from someone who is just a goof-off trying to skate by in a "drug-free" workplace? Just some thoughts!

Posted by Kris Hermes
Saturday, January 26, 2008 1:27 PM EST

Thanks for your review of the California Supreme Court decision in Ross v. RagingWire. I wanted to provide new information to your readers.

The same day that this decision was rendered, California Assemblymember Mark Leno announced his intention to introduce legislation that would prevent discrimination against medical marijuana patients. (see: LINK )

Besides filing a "friend of the court" brief (see: LINK ) with all of the original co-authors of SB 420 (California's Medical Marijuana Program Act) in support of Gary Ross, Mr. Leno spoke out against Thursday's court ruling, saying that "it makes no sense" (see: LINK ). Mr. Leno further stated that, "The people of California did not intend that patients be unemployed in order to use medical marijuana" (see: LINK ,1,6840005.story?ctrack=1&cset=true).

So, armed with a commitment from one of the co-authors of the California's medical marijuana law, patients will seek redress from the state legislature. Patients deserve the dignity of being treated as an equal member of society and should not be relegated to the unemployment lines simply for exercising their legal rights under state law.

Comments for this article are closed.

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