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.'' #