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CA Supreme Court Upholds Right of Employers to Fire Medical Marijuana Users
by CA NORML via list
Thursday Jan 24th, 2008 3:59 PM
The California Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that
employers can fire workers for using medical
CA Supreme Court Upholds Right of Employers to Fire Medical Marijuana Users
The California Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that
employers can fire workers for using medical
marijuana. The court dismissed a lawsuit
brought by Gary Ross under the state's Fair
Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)that he had been
wrongfully denied employment by RagingWire
Telecommunications on account of testing positive
for past use of marijuana on a urine test.
The court took a narrow interpretation of
Prop. 215, ruling that it did not create a
general right to use medical marijuana, but only
protected patients from criminal sanction for
possession or cultivation of marijuana. Sponsors
of Prop 215 contested this interpretation.
"Prop. 215 was intended to give patients the same
right to use medical marijuana as other, legal
prescription drugs," said California NORML
Coordinator Dale Gieringer, a co-author of the
Prop 215 advocates are calling on the state
legislature to consider extending the protections
of FEHA to workers who use medical marijuana.
In the meantime, the court's decision leaves
the door open for discrimination against medical
marijuana users via drug urine tests, even
though not a single FDA study has ever proven
that urine testing is either safe or effective in
ensuring job safety.
Text of the court's opinion:
- D. Gieringer, Cal NORML

Excerpt from majority opinion by Justice Kathryn Werdegar:

"Plaintiff's position might have merit if the Compassionate Use Act gave
marijuana the same status as any legal
prescription drug. But the act's effect is not
so broad. No state law could completely legalize
marijuana for medical purposes
because the drug remains illegal under federal law (21 U.S.C. §§ 812, 844(a)),
even for medical users (see Gonzalez v. Raich &
U.S. v Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative).
Instead of attempting the impossible, as we shall explain, California's voters
merely exempted medical users and their primary caregivers from criminal
liability under two specifically designated state
statutes. Nothing in the text or
history of the Compassionate Use Act suggests the
voters intended the measure to
address the respective rights and obligations of employers and employees. "

Excerpt from dissent by Joyce Kennard (joined by Carlos Moreno)

The majority's decision leaves many Californians
with serious illnesses just two options: continue receiving the benefits of
marijuana use "in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain,
spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or [] other illness" ...
and become unemployed, giving up what may be their
only source of income, or continue in their employment, discontinue marijuana
treatment, and try to endure their chronic pain or other condition for which
marijuana may provide the only relief. Surely this cruel choice is not what
California voters intended when they enacted the state Compassionate Use Act.
Nor is this cruel choice something that the FEHA permits. One of the
FEHA's stated purposes is "to protect and
safeguard the right and opportunity of
all persons to seek, obtain, and hold employment without discrimination or
abridgement on account of . . . physical
disability . . . [or] medical condition . . . ."

[However, Kennard also ruled that employers could
not be sued for wrongful discharge in violation
of public policy for firing medical marijuana

I agree with the majority, however, that because federal law prohibits
marijuana possession (21 U.S.C. §§ 812, 844(a)),
discharging an employee for off-
duty, physician-recommended marijuana use will not support a claim of wrongful
discharge in violation of public policy (see Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co.
(1980) 27 Cal.3d 167). ]

Calif. Court: Medical Pot Not OK at Work
By PAUL ELIAS - 2 hours ago
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Employers can fire workers
found to have used medical marijuana even if it
was legally prescribed, the California Supreme
Court ruled Thursday.
The high court upheld a small Sacramento
telecommunications company's firing of a man who
flunked a company-ordered drug test. Gary Ross
held a medical marijuana card authorizing him to
use the drug to treat a back injury sustained
while serving in the Air Force.
The company, Ragingwire Inc., argued that it
rightfully fired Ross because all marijuana use
is illegal under federal law, which does not
recognize the medical marijuana laws in
California and 11 other states.
The U.S. Supreme Court declared in 2005 that
state medicinal marijuana laws don't protect
users from prosecution. The Drug Enforcement
Administration and other federal agencies have
been actively shutting down major medical
marijuana dispensaries throughout California over
the last two years and charging their operators
with felony distribution charges.
Ragingwire said it fired Ross because it feared
it could be the target of a federal raid, among
other reasons.
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
and the Western Electrical Contractors
Association Inc. had joined Ragingwire's case,
arguing that companies could lose federal
contracts and grants if they allowed employees to
smoke pot.
The conservative nonprofit Pacific Legal
Foundation said in a friend-of-the-court filing
that employers could also be liable for damage
done by high workers.
Ross had argued that medical marijuana users
should receive the same workplace protection from
discipline that employees with valid painkiller
prescriptions do. California voters legalized
medicinal marijuana in 1996.
The nonprofit marijuana advocacy group Americans
for Safe Access, which represents Ross, estimates
that 300,000 Americans use medical marijuana. The
Oakland-based group said it has received hundreds
of employee discrimination complaints in
California since it began tracking the issue in
The American Medical Association advocates
keeping marijuana classified as a tightly
controlled and dangerous drug that should not be
legalized until more research is done.

California NORML, 2215-R Market St. #278, San
Francisco CA 94114 -(415) 563- 5858 -