Pubdate: Thu, 01 Dec 2005
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2005 The Sacramento Bee
Note: Does not publish letters from outside its circulation area.
Author: Claire Cooper, Bee Legal Affairs Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


State Supreme Court accepts a case in which a man was fired for using 
marijuana OK'd by doctor.

SAN FRANCISCO - The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to 
decide another key issue in the debate over the legality of medical 
marijuana - whether people can be denied employment because they use 
the drug in compliance with the state's Compassionate Use Act.

The justices said they'll review a September ruling by the Court of 
Appeal in Sacramento, which said employers need not accommodate a 
worker's pot use as long as pot remains illegal under federal law.

The test case was filed by Gary Ross, a lead systems administrator 
who lost a job at a Sacramento telecommunications firm after it 
reviewed results of a pre-employment drug test. At least one similar 
case - that of a registered nurse who was fired by a Sacramento area 
hospital - is pending in the lower courts and likely will be governed 
by the results of Ross' case against RagingWire Telecommunications. 
There's no deadline for the decision.

Other medical pot cases have been concerned with criminal 
prosecutions of people complying with the the state medical pot law, 
Proposition 215 of 1996. Under state Supreme Court rulings, they've 
been given substantial protection from sanctions in state courts, 
where most criminal cases are decided.

Ross' case is a civil suit, though, involving different types of 
issues. A Sacramento trial judge and then the Court of Appeal said 
the initiative offers no job protection for pot users.

The opinion, written by Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland, cited 
productivity, workplace safety and other "legitimate interests" that 
employers may have in avoiding drug-using workers.

RagingWire in 2001 terminated Ross after eight days because a 
pre-employment drug test came back positive for THC, the main 
chemical in marijuana. Ross, who contends pot didn't affect his 
ability to perform his job, had started using the drug two years 
earlier for lower back strain and muscle spasms that he has suffered 
since being injured in the U.S. Air Force.

Although Ross had a doctor's recommendation to use the drug, as 
Proposition 215 requires, the Court of Appeal said there's "no safe 
method for an employer to determine whether a purported physician's 
recommendation that an employee use marijuana for medicinal purposes 
is legitimate."

Attorney Stewart Katz, who represents Ross, said Wednesday that the 
Court of Appeal opinion would allow an employer to fire or not hire 
"anyone who has appropriately used medically recommended marijuana." 
He called it "irony or mockery" to have a Compassionate Use Act and 
yet allow denial of a job for reasons unrelated to impairment at work 
or bringing pot to work.

Katz said Ross got a job at a video store after RagingWire dismissed 
him and lately has been mining for gold.

RagingWire did not respond to requests for comment.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman