Skip to main content

Medical Marijuana: Oregon Appeals Court Protects Workers

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #539)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Oregon employers must make a reasonable accommodation for workers who use medical marijuana for a disability, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in an opinion released Wednesday. The ruling upheld an earlier ruling by the state Bureau of Labor and Industries that found that state laws barring discrimination protected medical marijuana users from being fired because of their choice of medications.

medical marijuana bags (picture courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
The decision came in the case of Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc., in which an employee was terminated after admitting he had a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana. A key factor in the court's decision was the fact that the employee did not use marijuana at work. In a 2006 ruling, the state Supreme Court upheld the firing of a worker after he tested positive for marijuana, but in that case, the high court avoided the issue of non-workplace use of medical marijuana.

The voter-approved 1998 Oregon Medical Marijuana Act was unclear on whether employees must accommodate workers who use medical marijuana away from the workplace. In the present case, the Oregon Court of Appeals emphasized that the Emerald Steel employee did not use marijuana at work.

The appeals court also rejected several arguments by Emerald Steel, including the claim that employees could be affected on the job by off-hours medical marijuana use and the claim that marijuana use violates federal law even if it is legal under state law. Emerald Steel had not raised those issues during earlier proceedings. "Accordingly, we will not consider those issues for the first time on review," wrote Judge Timothy Sercombe in the opinion.

Legislators and some employer lobbies in Oregon have been trying for the past several years to impose restrictions on medical marijuana use and for laws that would allow employers to fire workers who use medical marijuana. But so far, those efforts have gone nowhere. Now, the Oregon Court of Appeals has dealt another blow to those efforts.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

This decision by Oregon's Court of Appeals, I hope will help me in my case.. Though as a Washington State Medical Marijuana patient, I too am battling a potential employer and (or) its "drug testing company"...

In early May I applied for the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 66.. The Union rep. told me "as long as I have the proper paperwork, my mmj use should be no problem." He stated, "They currently have other members who use medical marijuana."

However when I gave my urine sample, I attempted to give my paperwork to the testing facility and they refused to accept it. They told me "Federal law does not allow for Medical Marijuana use, and that I would have to obtain a prescription for Marinol (or) they would not reverse my positive result..

I have since been trying to obtain a script for Marinol though three doctors in my area have stated that the medical community in Benton and Franklin counties are not allowed to prescribe Marinol for anything other than severe nausea related to chemotherapy and cancer.. They say law enforcement has threatened them regularly saying they will "refer doctors to federal prosecutors if they have anything to do with Medical Marijuana (or) Marinol." Effectively preventing Doc's from giving their patients sound advice.

Based upon this recent decision by the Oregon courts I will now file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, for discrimination. While I realize this decision only effects Oregon, I hope it will give me some legal president to use in Washington courts.

I see this as a "win" for all mmj patients regardless of what state they are from...

Right on!!!

Sat, 06/14/2008 - 2:36pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Medical marijuana is just that, medicine. When people write/talk about it unfortunately they are in fear of repercussions and sign as Anonymous. We are people like everyone else, but we live under this shroud of fear because of the medication we use, and this does not help our healing process. We need to be understood and not labeled as a "drug user" because we test positive for THC.

"Anonymous Oregonian".

Mon, 06/23/2008 - 5:15pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.