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Medical Marijuana: Employment Rights Bill Passes California Assembly

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #538)
Consequences of Prohibition

A medical marijuana employment rights bill that would protect California patients from being fired because their medication is marijuana passed the California Assembly Wednesday. Introduced by leading legislative medical marijuana defender Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and cosponsored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), the bill, AB 2279, would overturn a January California Supreme Court decision, Ross v. Raging Wire.

In that case, the state Supreme Court upheld the ability of employers to fire employees who test positive for marijuana even if they are patients. That decision left the state's estimated 150,000 registered medical marijuana patients facing renewed job insecurity.

AB 2279 would undo that ruling. It would "declare it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon the person's status as a qualified patient or primary caregiver, or a positive drug test for marijuana, except as specified."

The bill also provides authorization for those who have been discriminated against by employers because of their medical marijuana use to sue for damages, seek injunctions and other appropriate relief. It would not prevent an employer from firing an employee who is impaired on the job because of medical marijuana use.

"AB 2279 is not about being under the influence while at work. That's against the law, and will remain so," said Leno, the bill's author. "It's about allowing patients who are able to work safely and who use their doctor-recommended medication in the privacy of their own homes, to not be arbitrarily fired from their jobs. The voters who supported Proposition 215 did not intend for medical marijuana patients to be forced into unemployment in order to benefit from their medicine," Leno continued.

"The California Assembly has acted to protect the right of patients to work and be productive members of society," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana advocacy group that argued the case before the Court and is now a supporter of the bill. "The state Senate now has the important task of passing this bill with the aim to protect the jobs of thousands of Californians with serious illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS."

"It's important that we not allow employment discrimination in California," said Gary Ross, the former plaintiff in Ross v. Raging Wire. "If the Court is going to ignore the need for protection, then it's up to the legislature to ensure that productive workers like me are free from discrimination."

The bill has broad support from labor, business, civil rights, and medical groups. It now heads to the state Senate.

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)


Thu, 05/29/2008 - 9:01pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I am really happy to see some of these court rulings starting to support the wishes of the voters in this state! its about time the state government started supporting the will of the people. We are finally starting to see some changes due to the hard work of so many people. I have to say thanks very much to everyone involved!

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 11:15am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

And prohibitionists claim the drug war is not about our civil or religious rights?

And we should not tolerate intolerant prohibitionists, usually extreme fundamentalist christians... I call them the 'crackhead christians', intent on killing or incarcerating those that dare to disagree and challenge their paranoia, pretense and pompacity!

Next years million man marijuana march should be combined with a million man militia march to put some teeth into the movement.

Perhaps we need to form a 'Green Panther' party (based on the black panthers) to protect dispensories & grow-ops from rogue criminal gov't operatives like the dumb evil assholes (dea)? Ever watch how the home invaders set-up for a raid and breached entry. They line themselves up like ducks... a threat that 2 or 3 maneaters could easily eliminate.

Power perceived should not be power achieved!

Fri, 05/30/2008 - 2:52pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

It would be the right thing to do if Oregon would follow suit on this matter. I know people here who have been denied employment because of their use of Medical Marijuana. Since the employers are using the limp and useless urine test that does not indicate that you are under the influence at the time of the test. If they were using the correct test and stopped discriminating against medical marijuana patients, then more people could be contributing members of society instead of being on Social Security and the state medical programs.

Sat, 05/31/2008 - 1:24am Permalink

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