Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jun 2015
Source: Seattle Weekly (WA)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Michael A. Stusser


The Launch of the the National Cannabis Bar Association, and More Good News.

Sooner or later, everything winds up in court. You spilled a scalding 
cup of java on your nads at the McDonald's drive-through; the 
insurance company refuses to pay for "water damage"; you're tired of 
arsenic in the drinking water; ya feel like suing Costco . . . just 
because. And now that cannabis is entering the mainstream, it's time 
to lawyer up, in this week's legal round-up.

Legal Weed, But Not if You Have a Job

Colorado's Supreme Court ruled last week that, regardless of the 
state's legalization of marijuana, an employer can fire a worker who 
uses cannabis, even for medical reasons. The case couldn't have had a 
more sympathetic poster boy: Brandon Coats, a 34-year-old 
quadriplegic, was a model employee, but was fired by Dish Network in 
2010 after failing a random company drug test. (As if we needed 
another reason to hate television service providers.) Medical pot has 
been legal in Colorado since 2000, and Coats had a doctor's 
authorization. He never smoked weed at work-nor was he ever under the 
influence during the day; he used cannabis in the evenings to help 
with sleep, muscle spasms, and stiffness. Even Dish doesn't dispute 
this assertion. Nevertheless, a failed drug test won't fly in the 
Zero Tolerance zone, and so, even though his home use was legal and 
off-duty, the company used their drug policy to terminate Coats.

While both medical and recreational marijuana are legal in Colorado, 
the court agreed unanimously (6-0) with the satellite television 
company, stating that laws that protect employees from being fired 
for "lawful activities" hold water only when those activities are 
legal under both state and federal law. Dish officials said they were 
as pleased as (non-alcoholic) punch with the decision: "As a national 
employer, Dish remains committed to a drug-free workplace and 
compliance with federal law." Obviously, this ruling may waft over to 
Washington, which, like Colorado, has legalized recreational cannabis 
and is one of the 23 medical-MJ states. There's only one solution to 
all this nonsense: Legalize cannabis at the federal level.

Good Doggy!

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is 
unconstitutional for the police to hold suspects at traffic stops 
without probable cause. That's good news for folks with trunkloads 
full of contraband; cops can't keep you waiting until the 
drug-sniffing dogs show up. (In Washington, of course, you're allowed 
to drive around with up to an ounce of weed in your vehicle, though 
it's probably not a great idea.) In the 6-3 decision, the justices 
ruled that holding a vehicle for even a few minutes violates the 
Constitution's unreasonable-seizure shield. Everyone's favorite 
justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote in her opinion: "Police may not 
prolong detention of a car and driver beyond the time reasonably 
required to address the traffic violation."

As noted in my cover story ("Fear & Loathing in Legal Territory," 
Feb. 4, 2015), drug-sniffing canines here in Washington are being 
retrained for other tasks, as the smell of ganja is no longer a 
reason for suspicion.

Blazing on the Front Porch

While I am not a lawyer by training, I have seen several episodes of 
Boston Legal (big fan of Bill Shatner's over-the-top performances), 
and thus can conjecture. That may not be the correct term. Point is, 
I can extrapolate. So when I read about the Iowa Supreme Court 
affirming the right of a gal to be shitfaced drunk on her own porch, 
I'm seeing a green light for cannabis. In 2013, Patience Paye called 
the cops on her boyfriend. When officers showed up to investigate for 
domestic violence, they determined she was the aggressor, asked if 
she'd been drinking (she had indeed, with over three times the legal 
limit in her blood), and charged her with public intoxication. Paye's 
lawyers appealed her conviction, making a case that her front steps 
weren't public at all, and that she should never have been arrested. 
Patience was patient, and the Supreme Court saw her point, ruling 
last week that the porch of a private home isn't considered public, 
so long as the resident hasn't invited the general public to be 
there. It just follows, then, that if ya don't invite the masses to 
smoke a fatty on your stoop, ya can't be charged with public 
stonification. That's just logical, man.


To make sure that these legal lawsuits and challenges continue to 
advance the cause, we now have the National Cannabis Bar Association! 
The goal of the newly formed NCBA is to provide attorneys who are 
specializing in cannabis a place to get stoned and talk shop. Well, 
that, and to provide a networking platform to share ideas and 
strategies for a rapidly changing industry and complex political landscape.

"Attorneys have long been at the forefront of the fight for cannabis 
legalization," said executive director Shabnam Malek. "Now that 23 
states and Washington, D.C., have some form of legalized cannabis, 
there is a clear need for an organization focused on the business 
aspects of law and cannabis."

The NCBA board comprises legal eagles from six states (including 
Seattle attorney Mitzi Vaughn of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel). The 
organization is open not only to practicing attorneys, but to 
paralegals, law students, and retired lawyers who just want to get 
their hands on some of the legal chronic. On the advice of legal 
counsel, we withdraw that last statement.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom