CA: California Supreme Court upholds firing of employees for using medical marijuana

Discussion in 'The Drug War Headline News' started by Lit_Match, Feb 12, 2008.

  1. Lit_Match Lit_Match

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    California Supreme Court upholds firing of employees for using medical marijuana
    2-12-08|The California Aggie|By: ALYSOUN BONDE

    The California Supreme Court voted 5-2 on Jan. 24 to allow employers to fire employees who legally use medicinal marijuana.

    Gary Ross sued RagingWire Telecommunications Inc., his former employer, for wrongful termination and employment discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act after he was fired in September 2001 after testing positive for marijuana. Ross was terminated despite having informed his employer at the time of hire about his status as a legal marijuana user and provided documentation to prove it, according to an appellate court brief.

    The California Supreme Court upheld the Third Appellate Court's 2005 decision that "because the possession and use of marijuana is illegal under federal law, a court has no legitimate authority to require an employer to accommodate an employee's use of marijuana, even if it is for medicinal purposes and thus legal under California law."

    Due to injuries sustained during his service in the U.S. Air Force, Ross has suffered from lower back pain and muscle spasms since January.

    "All I am asking is to be a productive member of society," Ross said in a press release. "I was not fired for poor work performance, but for an antiquated policy on medical marijuana."

    The Sacramento-based firm RagingWire Telecommunications Inc., which provides information technology services and infrastructure to businesses, hired Ross in September 2001. Ross informed them of his status as a legal marijuana user when he took the required drug test. The company terminated him after eight days of employment when the test came back positive for marijuana.

    When the Supreme Court determined that RagingWire's argument was legitimate, it sighted "the well-documented problems that are associated with the abuse of drugs and alcohol by employees - increased absenteeism, diminished productivity, greater health costs, increased safety problems and potential liability" as further justification for the ruling.

    State Representative Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) plans to introduce legislation to protect medical marijuana patients' right to employment.

    "Through the passage of [the Compassionate Care Act] the people of California did not intend that patients be unemployed in order to use medical marijuana," Leno said.

    The Leno bill will be sponsored by Americans for Safe Access, the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

    "We are grateful that Assemblyman Leno has come to the aid of patients by introducing a bill to prevent the kind of employment discrimination condoned by today's ruling," said Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access.

    Justice Carlos Moreno of the California Supreme Court wrote in his dissenting opinion, with which Justice Joyce Kennard agreed, that the majority of the court was misinterpreting the intent of the voters who passed the Compassionate Care Act in 1996 which allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana.

    "The majority's decision leaves many Californians with serious illnesses just two options," Moreno wrote. "Continue receiving the benefits of marijuana use in the treatment of ... illnesses and become unemployed … 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."

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