Patients Aim To Keep Job, Use Pot

Patients Aim To Keep Job, Use Pot
Posted by CN Staff on February 05, 2006 at 07:46:36 PT
By Josh Richman, Staff Writer
Source: Tri-Valley Herald
California -- An Oakland-based advocacy group is taking the medical marijuana battle deep into the workplace Tuesday by asking the state's highest court to protect patients not only from prosecution but also from firing. Americans for Safe Access will file a California Supreme 'Court brief Tuesday on behalf of Gary Ross of Sacramento, who was canned in September 2001 after just a few days on the job at RagingWire Telecommunications.
"It's fair to say it's been a widespread problem. ... We've consistently gotten calls in this area essentially since we've been taking calls," ASA chief counsel Joe Elford said Friday. "Except for law enforcement encounters, this is the biggest concern facing medical marijuana patients." When Ross' pre-employment drug test showed marijuana use, he told RagingWire he was authorized to use the drug under state law for his disability: chronic back pain from injuries suffered in 1983 while serving in the U.S. Air Force. He was fired anyway. Ross contends being fired for using medical marijuana as state law permits, and RagingWire's failure to provide him a reasonable accommodation for his disability violates the state's Fair Employment and Housing Act. Yet the state Court of Appeal in Sacramento last September upheld a trial court's dismissal of the case, finding the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 protects people from state criminal prosecution but not from job actions. "Unless and until the Legislature, or the electorate, amends FEHA to compel an employer to accommodate an employee's medicinal use of marijuana, we conclude that an employer does not violate FEHA by firing, or refusing to hire, a person whose pre-employment drug test reveals that the person is using an illicit drug, including marijuana which is illegal under federal law even when it is being used for medicinal purposes in accordance with the Compassionate Use Act," Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland wrote. ASA signed on as co-counsel after this ruling, and four state Supreme Court justices — Chief Justice Ronald George and associate justices Joyce Kennard,Kathryn Werdegar and Carlos Moreno — in November granted Ross' petition for review. What this means "depends on how much of an optimist you are," Elford said. "We would like to think the Supreme Court is taking the case to give Mr. Ross the remedy to which he's entitled under California law, but of course it's impossible to predict." RagingWire's attorney, D. Gregory Valenza of San Francisco, declined to comment Friday, but in a December posting to his firm's Web site said RagingWire "is committed to compliance with FEHA, as well as a drug-free workplace, and is required by many of its customers to provide a drug-free workplace." Francis Alvarez, coordinator of Valenza's firm's Disability Management Practice Group, wrote employers "will breathe a sigh of relief if the California Supreme Court affirms the Court of Appeal. It would be disturbing, to say the least, if 'reasonable accommodation' meant ignoring illegal drug use." San Luis Obispo attorney Steven Chanley, a shareholder with the Employer Advocates Group law firm, blogged about the case last September: "It is difficult not to be sympathetic to the plight of those who must rely legitimately on mind-altering drugs to mitigate their physical pain. However, it seems a non-starter to argue that the employment laws require an accommodation in the form of permitting illegal drug use." ASA Legal Director Kris Hermes, in a news release issued last week, contended a Supreme Court victory could go well beyond just impacting tens of thousands of medical-marijuana patients working in California "by providing protections, in a civil context, against many other forms of discrimination. "A victory in this case will also help to clarify and reinforce the argument that state law is sovereign and not pre-empted by federal law," Hermes sad. Elford said Ross continues using medical marijuana after taking a job in a different field: mining. "It's quite a job shift, but I guess after the dot-com burst... it really has worked out in a very unfortunate manner for him." Note: Oakland group will ask high court to protect medical marijuana users. Source: Tri-Valley Herald (Pleasanton, CA)Author: Josh Richman, Staff WriterPublished: February 5, 2006Copyright: 2006 ANG NewspapersContact: herlet angnewspapers.comWebsite: http://www.trivalleyherald.comRelated Articles & Web Site:Americans For Safe Access Legal Pot Use Can Make Jobs Go Up in Smoke To Review Medical Marijuana Firing Who Uses Marijuana May Be Fired 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on February 08, 2006 at 14:35:14 PT
Related News Brief from The Associated Press
Challenge Filed To Ruling That Allows Firing of Medical Marijuana Patients ***February 8, 2006 SAN FRANCISCO -- The nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, is challenging a court ruling that allows California companies to fire workers who use the drug with a doctor's prescription.The A-S-A filed its brief with the California Supreme Court. Attorney Joe Elford contends the law allows "discrimination that makes medical marijuana users second-class citizens."The plaintiff in the case is Gary Ross, a 43-year-old veteran who has been prescribed marijuana for injuries he says he suffered while in the Air Force. Ross says he never uses marijuana on the job.Ross says his company fired him when he tested positive for pot, despite knowing his status.Attorney Elford says if the state Supreme Court overturns the ruling, it would protect tens of thousands of medical marijuana users.Copyright 2006 Associated Press
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Comment #4 posted by ekim on February 05, 2006 at 12:51:20 PT
"Drug Policy for the Union Worker"
Mar 29 06 Local 375 District Council 37: "Drug Policy for the Union Worker" 06:00 PM New York New York USA 
 LEAP, Drug Policy Alliance, ReconsiDer and the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation will be presenting "Drug Policy for the Union Worker" for members of the Local 375 District Council 37. The presentation will cover numerous issues, possibly including drug testing laws and rights, the cost and politics of current drug policy and a host of other issues. LEAP speaker to be determined. Mar 29 06 Mid-America Tour 12:00 AM Jack Cole Kansas/Missouri USA  Executive Director Jack Cole visits the heartland on his 2006 “Mid-America Tour”. This year's tour will go from March 29th to April 10th and will include Kansas City, as well as Lawrence and Topeka, KS and surrounding towns. To request Mr. Cole to visit with your organization, send an email to Schreier
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Comment #3 posted by OverwhelmSam on February 05, 2006 at 12:30:28 PT
The marijuana war mongers are doing everything they can to stop the shit storm that's coming down the road at them full blast. They have no idea of the increased legal and political carnage that's staring them right in the face. Alas, they don't have the character to realize that they've already lost, and should simply concede. Ah well, got to crack a few eggheads to make an omelete.New Mexico might set the precedent that causes the levee to break. If not, more is on the way.
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Comment #2 posted by charmed quark on February 05, 2006 at 12:29:17 PT
Fired for Marinol
Yes - there were several cases in Washington State where people were fired for testing positive on an employer's drug test, even though they had a prescription for Marinol. The state supreme court, in the one case that made it that far, said it violated the Americans' with Disabilities Act and that the fired employees could sue. So your employer can still fire you, but you have the right to spend several years in court trying to sue them under ADA.There's a national drug testing society, and they were not happy with that ruling.I was threatened by the company physician at my job when he found out I used Marinol. I told him about it in the course of some medical treatment by him. He said they could terminate me becuase the drug makes you mentally incompetent. Luckily, it worked out OK for me.In any case, several states are introducing Medical Marijuana laws to their legislators. None of them include protection from failing drug tests. Apparently, the drug testing industry is just too powerful to pass these bills with such a provision.I would like to see the bills include some sort of "reasonable accomadation" in the workplace.And, surely, "reasonable accomadation" in the workplace would include protection from drug testing. Which is why I can't understand the CA rulings.
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Comment #1 posted by billos on February 05, 2006 at 10:24:05 PT
       Are they firing people .............
for using prescribed Marinol??
Unfortunately this fight and more will be needed to change things.Sad that you have to fight the bastards all the way.
But, that's war I guess.
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