Bill To Protect MMJ Patients Passes Assembly

June 3, 2008

CA — California’s medical marijuana patients are one step closer to being protected against work place discrimination after a bill made its way through the state Assembly this week.

Assembly Bill 2279, authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno and co-authored by Eureka’s Assemblywoman Patty Berg, would make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of their status as a medical marijuana patient or caregiver or for failing a drug test.

”Voters have said that marijuana has legitimate medical uses, and this bill says workers shouldn’t be punished for having medical needs,” Berg said in a statement.

That doesn’t, however, mean medical marijuana patients are free to light up on the job. The bill makes clear that employers would retain the right to fire or discipline employees for being impaired at work because of the use of medical marijuana.

The bill is a direct response to a recent California Supreme Court ruling, which it aims to overturn.

The Supreme Court voted in January to uphold a Sacramento telecommunications company’s firing of Gary Ross, who flunked a company-ordered drug test, but had a medical marijuana card authorizing him to legally use marijuana to treat a back injury he suffered while serving in the Air Force.

”No state law could completely legalize marijuana for medical purposes because the drug remains illegal under federal law,” Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote for the 5-2 majority.

The company, Ragingwire Inc., successfully argued it rightfully fired Ross because marijuana is illegal under federal law, which does not recognize medical marijuana laws in California and 11 other states.

The court’s decision drew the ire of medical marijuana supporters, and from Leno who vowed to bring forward legislation that would overrule the court’s decision.

”AB 2279 is merely an affirmation of the intent of the voters and the Legislature that medical marijuana patients need not be unemployed to benefit from their medicine,” Leno said in a press release after introducing the bill.

In a previous interview with the Times-Standard, Eureka attorney Neal Sanders, who specializes in marijuana cases, said the bill would essentially put medical marijuana patients back in the same position they were in before the court’s ruling.

”It’s an issue that needs to be taken care of legislatively,” Sanders said. “It’s gone as far as it can with the courts, and the courts don’t seem to be sympathetic.”

AB 2279 just narrowly passed the Assembly with a 41-35 vote, and now heads to the Senate for review.

Complete Title: Bill To Protect Medical Marijuana Patients Passes Assembly

Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)

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