Justices To Review Medical Marijuana Firing

Justices To Review Medical Marijuana Firing
Posted by CN Staff on November 30, 2005 at 18:56:23 PT
By David Kravets, AP Legal Affairs Writer
Source: Associated Press
San Francisco -- The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to decide whether employers can terminate employees for lawfully using medical marijuana.The case concerns a former computer systems administrator for a Sacramento telecommunications company who was fired after eight days on the job because he tested positive for marijuana, despite the employee having a lawful recommendation by a doctor to use marijuana to alleviate back pain from a previous Air Force injury.
The justices neither commented on the case nor said when they would hear it.Gary Ross, who was fired in 2001, sued for wrongful termination and employment discrimination, claiming he had a right to use marijuana under California's 1996 Compassionate Use Act. He said marijuana did not hinder his work performance.The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento dismissed the case, saying "employers have legitimate interests in not employing persons who use illegal drugs."Ross appealed to the state Supreme Court.The Sacramento appeals court ruled that marijuana was illegal under federal law, so the California courts have "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."In June, the U.S Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that state laws don't make medical marijuana patients immune from the federal ban on the drug. Ten states have laws permitting medical marijuana that are at odds with the federal ban.The case is Ross v. Ragingwire, S138130.Editors: David Kravets has been covering state and federal courts for more than a decade. Source: Associated Press (Wire)Author: David Kravets, AP Legal Affairs WriterPublished: Wednesday, November 30, 2005Copyright: 2005 The Associated Press Related Articles:Supreme Court Allows Prosecution of Marijuana Judge Says Firing Employee Over Pot is OK
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on December 07, 2005 at 19:01:02 PT
Related Article from The Orange County Register 
When Federal, State Laws Collide in the Workplace***Editorial: State Supreme Court takes up the issue of medical-marijuana users' employment rights. Wednesday, December 7, 2005  
 In an ideal world government would have no say in the hiring practices of private companies, so such an issue would never arise. But we live in the world we live in, so perhaps it is helpful that the California Supreme Court has taken the case of Gary Ross, a former computer systems administrator who was fired for testing positive for marijuana, even though he was using it to alleviate chronic back pain with the approval of a physician, which is legal under the Compassionate Use Act approved by voters in 1996 and has never been challenged or invalidated in court.The situation is confusing, and companies could use a little guidance, even if the Supreme Court decides the proper remedy is for the Legislature to clarify matters.In brief, California and 10 other states allow people with a recommendation from a licensed physician to use marijuana to alleviate medical conditions. But the federal government still keeps marijuana on Schedule I under the 1974 Controlled Substances Act - unjustifiably under the law as written, but that's another issue - which means no use whatsoever is legally permitted.Federal drug laws do not require private companies to test employees or new hires for illicit drugs, but many companies find it prudent to do so, especially since abuse of some drugs can lead to poor performance at work or in some cases can endanger fellow workers, particularly in heavy-equipment operation and manufacturing operations. But what are employers to do when state and federal laws are in conflict? The compassionate and intelligent course, at least in California, would be to create exceptions for legitimate medical users of marijuana, but would doing (and being known to do so) so invite unwelcome attention from the feds?Snipped:Complete Article:
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on December 06, 2005 at 12:48:49 PT
Press Release from The Drug Policy Alliance
CA Supreme Court To Hear Medical Marijuana Job Discrimination Case***Tuesday, December 6, 2005On December 1, 2005, days after the Alliance filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) letter urging the California Supreme Court to hear the case Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, the Court agreed to do exactly that. The Alliance argued that Gary Ross, a medical marijuana patient under California's Compassionate Use Act, was wronged when he was fired by his employer after testing positive for marijuana. Mr. Ross used medical marijuana during non-working hours, off the employment premises. The outcome of the case will help determine whether - and to what extent - the Compassionate Use Act protects individuals qualified to perform essential job duties from being fired solely because their medical treatment includes physician-recommended marijuana.Gary Ross treated his chronic pain and muscle spasms from a military injury with medical marijuana for two years before he was offered a job with Ragingwire Telecommunications. Ross provided the company with his physician’s recommendation but was fired after eight days on the job because he tested positive for marijuana in a pre-employment drug test. Ross filed suit alleging wrongful termination but the lower courts held the company did not discriminate against him based on his disability. The intermediate appellate court's opinion, which will be reviewed by the Supreme Court, focused largely on the illegality of marijuana under federal law.For the last decade the Alliance has worked to assure the Compassionate Use Act is implemented and interpreted consistently with its core premise – that persons who can benefit from medical marijuana should not be discriminated against for their choice of medicine, and that public policy regarding medical marijuana should be grounded in science, reason, compassion and justice. The Alliance’s amicus letter to the Supreme Court in the Ross case argues that the lower court’s decision reflects a serious misunderstanding of the Compassionate Use Act and of the relationship between state and federal law. The letter contends that excluding individuals from employment based on their medical treatment is unlawful disability discrimination, as the employer did not – and could not – establish that accommodating Mr. Ross’s disability would be an undue hardship for the company. The Alliance letter further outlines how the overly narrow reading of the Compassionate Use Act by the lower court squarely conflicts with state public policy and fundamental privacy rights protected by the California Constitution.Now that the Court has agreed to hear the case, the Alliance will redouble its efforts and work with allied organizations in the fields of labor, disability rights, medicine and the law to submit additional friend-of-the-court briefs urging the Supreme Court to overturn the decision below and protect Mr. Ross – and similarly situated medical marijuana users – from discrimination in the employment context.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on December 01, 2005 at 15:02:45 PT
Very good point.
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Comment #8 posted by dongenero on December 01, 2005 at 14:33:16 PT
So, what if he is using Marinol?
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on December 01, 2005 at 12:49:06 PT
Related Article from
California Supreme Court to Decide Whether Worker Who Uses ‘Medical’ Marijuana May Be Fired***By MetNews Staff Writer Thursday, December 1, 2005CA -- The California Supreme Court yesterday agreed to decide whether an employee who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes may be fired upon testing positive for the drug.The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, granted review of the Sept. 7 ruling of the Third District Court of Appeal in Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, Inc. Chief Justice Ronald M. George and Justices Joyce L. Kennard, Kathryn M. Werdegar, and Carlos Moreno voted to review the Third District’s ruling that the firing of Gary Ross did not violate the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Justices Marvin Baxter and Ming Chin voted not to hear the case.The lower courts rejected Ross’ claim that because Proposition 215 protects his right to physician-approved marijuana use as treatment for lower back strain and muscle spasms, his employer’s refusal to accommodate his use of the drug constituted discrimination on the basis of disability and a violation of public policy. “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,” Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland wrote. “If FEHA is to be extended to compel such an accommodation, that is a public policy decision that must be made by the Legislature, or by the electorate via initiative, and not by the courts.” Ross worked as a systems administrator at Ragingwire Telecommunications, Inc. in Sacramento, but was fired eight days after starting work as a result of his positive test for THC, the main chemical found in marijuana. The company said it would consult with Ross’ physician before making a final decision on his employment, but went ahead and fired him. In his complaint, Ross alleged that he uses the drug, on his doctor’s recommendation, because other treatments for the injuries he suffered during military service over 20 years ago have not afforded relief. He also contended that neither his disability nor his marijuana use affect his ability to perform the essential functions of the job Ragingwire hired him to do. On demurrer, Ragingwire argued that because marijuana is a controlled substance that Ross cannot use under federal law, and because nothing in Proposition 215 requires employers to retain employees who use the drug, there was no violation of FEHA or public policy. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Joe S. Gray agreed and dismissed the suit. Scotland, writing for the Court of Appeal, said Gray was correct. Proposition 215, the presiding justice explained, “simply permits a person to use marijuana for medicinal purposes in our state without incurring state criminal law sanctions” and “says nothing about protecting the employment rights of those who do so.”The jurist cited the recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that the federal government may enforce its anti-marijuana laws against California residents without regard to Proposition 215. “Plaintiff claims we cannot resort to federal law to resolve his claim under FEHA, but he refers us to no legal authority supporting the proposition that he is exempt from federal criminal statutes merely because he lives in California,” Scotland explained. As long as marijuana possession remains a federal crime, the jurist went on to say, requiring an employer to tolerate marijuana use as a disability accommodation would create numerous problems that the voters could not have intended to create by passing the initiative. For example, Scotland reasoned, if other employees who use prescribed medication in order to perform their jobs take those drugs at work, medical marijuana users might be entitled to insist on the same accommodation. This, in turn, would subject the employer to negative consequences, including federal raids and the loss of state contracts under the Drug-Free Workplace Act.An additional complication, the presiding justice wrote, is that Proposition 215 requires no more than an oral recommendation by a physician in order for an employee’s marijuana use to be shielded from state criminal prosecution. Since the employer would have little means of determining the legitimacy of the employee’s claim that his or her use of the drug is Proposition 215-protected, “the employer could be put to the Hobson’s choice of either hiring an employee who may be using drugs illegally and is a substance abuser, or refusing to hire the employee and risking the expense of a lawsuit alleging discrimination.”Ross is being assisted on appeal by Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based advocacy group for medical marijuana. Copyright: 2005 Metropolitan News Company
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on December 01, 2005 at 08:50:58 PT
Thank you for the article.
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Comment #5 posted by afterburner on December 01, 2005 at 07:50:57 PT
RE Comment #2
County health official questions research linking pot with schizophrenia - Santa Cruz Sentinel December 1, 2005 Linked to Sexual Success and Schizophrenia -
Scientific American 29 Nov 2005
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Comment #4 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on December 01, 2005 at 06:45:16 PT
LTE opportunity
Good opportunity to write a LTE today - or should I say LTA, a Letter To Abby:'s topic: "BINGE DRINKING PROVES DEADLY TO MORE THAN ONE YOUNG ADULT"No direct mention of cannabis... but for crying out loud why not? Give these kids a safer alternative!
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Comment #3 posted by potpal on December 01, 2005 at 05:51:02 PT
BBC / this and that / ot
Well, at least the BBC only has this story on their 'health' page and not the front page...Just was thinking that even if we can change our politicians, the 'journalists' (using the term loosely) remain the same. Hopefully the net will help us to establish which news sources go forward and those that will die on the vine. In this brave new world, the forces that be will know exactly what people are reading and have an interest in since every click is now logged, unlike the tube which relied on archaic surveys to determine what the audience is/was eyeballing.Think it was Vonnegut who said:
We are not a society, we are an audience.
We do not have a culture, we have commercials.
Was it in Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons?
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Comment #2 posted by potpal on December 01, 2005 at 05:10:13 PT
around the world
Doesn't take a bad news, wonder how much was spent to 'discover' this link but boy, it sails around the world faster than the disappearance of a rich white girl. Now do the same testing on alcohol, sugar, caffeine, prozac, tobacco and get back to me...can someone list the good discoveries that aren't allow to see the light of day and are ignored completely almost. 
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Comment #1 posted by Jim Lunsford on December 01, 2005 at 03:49:12 PT
O.T., but still interesting
Attached is a link highlighting some of the reasons why this administration is unpopular with the voters now. While the list can go on, and in many different directions, it is increasingly clear that the people are beginning a "grass roots" movement of dis-content. Which means change of some sort is in the near future.
20051130/index.jhtml?headlines=trueNecessity is the mother of invention and reform. While the old rules of pillage and plunder give way to societal and global impact, not everyone is on the same team. That's what makes life so interesting anyway. Yet, change is in the air.Information is coming at us at unprecedented levels. Both in quantity and quality. Censorship is dying fast, but it does have a few death spasms to check off it's "to-do" list first. Politicians aren't evil, but are often over-whelmed by their duties. Perhaps they will hear our voice a little louder now. Of course, we could be like the old baptist preacher who prayed for a winning lottery ticket. When he wailed about not winning, he heard a big voice exclaim: "Would you meet me halfway and at least BUY a ticket?"That is how we are, as a country. We want, but won't do anything about it. Doesn't take much. A letter to a congressperson, a posting here, or somewhere else. We rise up with our whines, and do nothing. If everyone in America were to just post one letter a day on the web site of their choice, or to their newspaper of choice, or to their congressperson of choice, or just do anything at all, then this war on us would be over in a week. It's that simple.We, the people, are powerless because we do not exercise our power. Economically, politically, socially, as a nation, we are apathetic. And yet, we whine. Whine, whine, whine! As the old saying goes, "wish in one hand, and crap in the other, and see which fills up the first." That's what wishing will get you.Just do something. Complaining to your neighbor won't work. Complain in a public forum. Or to a public figure. At least if you want results. This is my venue of protest. What's yours?Rev Jim LunsfordFirst Cannabist ChurchPassion: What else is there?
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