June 6, 2008

State Assembly passage of a right-to-work bill is cause for rejoicing among area medical-marijuana patients.

Clients, volunteers and officials at Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County applaud the passage May 28 of Assembly Bill 2279, introduced in February by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said Elaine Roller, volunteer.

Following a state Supreme Court ruling Jan. 24, an employer currently can fire anyone whom they know is a med-pot patient. The Leno bill would override that ruling to reflect what he and others say is the intent of voters’ legalizing medical cannabis with Prop. 215. To become law, AB 2279 must pass a State Senate vote and gain a signature from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Patients have a right to work,” Roller said.

The bill excepts workplaces where people do safety-sensitive jobs.

Even so, Leno said, the bill “is not about being under the influence at work.”

Matt Vaughn, director of Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County, said it was no surprise the Leno bill passed the State Assembly.

“It’s a natural progression of due process,” Vaughn said. “This was something voted on by the people. I can understand the ( exception ), but not everyone has that kind of job.”

Roller said she sees clients whose severe pain once had them on the controversial prescription narcotic Oxycontin.

“The difference is the joy in their lives when they do not have to rely on heavy medication,” Roller said.

The state Supreme Court ruled against plaintiff Gary Ross, formerly of Carmichael, who in 2001 was fired from his job for testing positive for marijuana. He is a disabled war veteran and med-pot patient, who described himself as a “productive worker” for a telecommunications firm.

“The voters who supported Prop. 215 did not intend for medical-marijuana patients to be forced into unemployment in order to benefit from their medicine,” Leno said.

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