California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have protected medical marijuana patients from being fired from their jobs for testing positive for pot on a drug test.
The bill, AB 2279, authored by marijuana-friendly Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would have overturned a January California Supreme Court ruling that allowed employees to fire or otherwise punish employees who legally use medical marijuana under state law. Under the Leno bill, only people in safety-related or law enforcement positions could have been fired.
In that January ruling, the Supreme Court held that the state's Compassionate Use Act did exempt patients and caregivers from being prosecuted by the state, but was not intended to stop employers from firing workers for violating federal drug laws.
Schwarzenegger sang from the same hymnal in his veto message. "I am concerned with interference in employment decisions as they relate to marijuana use," the governor wrote. "Employment protection was not a goal of the initiative as passed by voters in 1996."
But medical marijuana supporters who spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle after the veto announcement begged to differ. "The intent of Prop. 215 was to treat marijuana like other legal pharmaceutical drugs," said Dale Gieringer, a coauthor of the ballot measure and California coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Leno told the local newspaper he was not surprised by the veto, given the Chamber of Commerce's opposition to the bill. He said the court majority and the governor apparently presumed that "the voters who supported Prop. 215 in 1996 intended that only those medical marijuana patients who are unemployed could make use of (the law)."