Bill Would Allow Ore. Employers To Enforce MMJ Ban

Bill Would Allow Ore. Employers To Enforce MMJ Ban
Posted by CN Staff on February 07, 2007 at 19:37:55 PT
By Aaron Clark, The Associated Press 
Source: Associated Press
Salem, Oregon -- Employees who legally use marijuana under Oregon's voter-passed medical cannabis laws could be fired for flunking a drug test under a proposed Senate bill under committee consideration Wednesday.Backers say the law would provide clarity on an issue surfacing in the workplace with increasing frequency. The bill would not just allow employers to remove workers if they are found to be impaired or consuming marijuana on the job, but if they test positive for using the substance outside of the workplace.
Opponents of the bill say it unfairly punishes medical marijuana users working in Oregon. They say workers can have traces of the drug in their system a month after use, and impairment can also come from a host of other doctor-prescribed and over-the-counter medications.Lawmakers came down on both sides of the issue."More years ago and more pounds ago than I want to count, I spent 20 years as a professional, commercial helicopter pilot," said Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who testified in support of the bill. "It is a zero-tolerance for drugs industry ... to assure a safe operation in the kind of very dangerous work that we were doing."But Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, who testified before the committee, said that employers should look for obvious signs of impairment, rather than drug tests, to pinpoint whether an employee's ability to carry out their job is truly affected.J.L. Wilson, Oregon director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the law was critical for employers to avoid lawsuits."There's a whole host of plaintiff's attorneys looking for business and this is another avenue for them if you have impaired workers," said Wilson.Others said the bill would fail to weed out employees that might be impaired by other doctor-prescribed or over-the-counter drugs, like those that contain codeine, amphetamines or morphine."This bill doesn't make us any safer," said Andrea Meyer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. "It presumes that everyone who is using medical marijuana is impaired while at the same time individuals using other medications are not."Lorenzo Gonzales, a 43-year-old machinist, said he was fired last month from his job with Forest Grove-based Merix, after traces of cannabis showed up in his mandatory drug test. The registered medical marijuana user said he takes cannabis for chronic pain due to several motorcycle accidents but that he only used the drug at night and it never impaired his ability in the workplace."The job I did was extremely complex and there's no way I could use my medication and think straight," Gonzales said.But whether the high-tech manufacturing company had the outright authority to fire Gonzales, one of Oregon's 12,000 legally registered medical marijuana users, is a tricky question.The Senate bill comes more than a year after the Oregon Supreme Court ruled against millwright Robert Washburn, a registered medical marijuana user who was fired from his job at a Columbia Forest Products plant after urine tests showed traces of the drug.But the court's decision skirted the issue of marijuana use in the workplace and proponents of the legislation said lawmakers need to weigh in."The court cases that have come forward have not answered that question," said Jessica Adamson, government affairs manager at Oregon's branch of Associated General Contractors."We all believed we were talking about folks in the last three to six months of their life," Adamson said of the voter-approved medical marijuana law. "Not the kind of folks who would get it for back pain and show up on a construction site."The bill is Senate Bill 465.Complete Title: Bill Would Allow Ore. Employers To Enforce Medical Marijuana BanSource: Associated Press (Wire)Author: Aaron Clark, The Associated Press Published:  February 7, 2007Copyright: 2007 Associated Press ACLU Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #6 posted by whig on February 08, 2007 at 22:59:24 PT
Impairment testing
For dangerous jobs requiring the absolute in attention and control, it should be standard to perform an impairment test. This will do more than any amount of drug testing, as it will show effects of tiredness due to sleeplessness, illness or other difficulties which could never be susceptible of detection on any test for substances.
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Comment #5 posted by charmed quark on February 08, 2007 at 18:40:55 PT
Even Marinol
If you have a positive THC test, it has to be declared negative if you are taking Marinol. What sense does that make?
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Comment #4 posted by Genthirdday on February 08, 2007 at 12:24:17 PT
Comment #3 Equal Protection Under Law
Excellent points that would make good LTE, article or Editorial in MSM.
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Comment #3 posted by Storm Crow on February 08, 2007 at 06:52:03 PT
Equal protection under the law?
If I take doctor prescribed medications, amphetamines, opiates, etc. In the event of a drug test, I believe that I am protected by the law- all I need to do is take in my little pill bottle and they can't touch me. These drugs rapidly are removed from the body and if I am taking them illegally (I'm not), and chances are, that I will get away with it. If I use thyroid and my dosage is a bit high (and it is), it acts like like a mild amphetamine dose. I may be slightly high, but no problem! I'm legal. If I use herbal remedies, St. John's Wort, butterbur, etc., nobody says a thing- even if in some cases, they can be harmful. If I smoke my lungs to a crisp every night with carcinogenic tobacco and drink alcohol until I am violent or unconscious- nobody says a thing- legal as church on Sunday until I hurt someone.If I take a puff on some cannabis on Friday night to ease a migraine from my high stress job, I'm fired, even though I am NEVER impaired at work. Is this equal protection under the law? 
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Comment #2 posted by mayan on February 08, 2007 at 00:53:36 PT
Backers say the law would provide clarity on an issue surfacing in the workplace with increasing frequency.Clarity? The people have already spoken very clearly! They voted to allow the sick to have their medicine without fear of any kind of punishment. It couldn't be any more clear than that. 
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Comment #1 posted by afterburner on February 07, 2007 at 22:08:46 PT
So much for the land of the free; truth, justice and the American way; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Why are so many politicians intent on denying people rights instead of promoting the general welfare?
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