Court: Employers can fire for med pot use

January 24, 2008 7:30:40 PM PST
The California Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that workers can be fired for using medical marijuana -- even though the state says it's legal.

A Bay Area lawmaker has already begun drawing up a bill to reverse the decision, involving an air force veteran who had a prescription from his doctor.

Believing his company wrongfully fired him in 2001 for medical marijuana use after work,

Gary Ross says the California Supreme Court ruling sends the wrong message. The Air Force veteran was using the drug prescribed by his doctor to relieve pain from a back injury he sustained while serving his country.

"If we want to be employed, we better not use medical marijuana, no matter what our doctor tells us, no matter what the medical benefit," said losing patient Gary Ross.

Voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, the Compassionate Use Act that legalized medicinal marijuana.

Despite informing his bosses in advance, Sacramento-based RagingWire fired Ross anyway after he flunked his company-ordered drug test.

The conservative non-profit Pacific Legal Foundation filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the telecommunications company and other employers.

"This is a significant ruling because it allows employers to know they can continue their efforts to maintain a drug-free workplace, and that the Compassionate Use Act is not going to change their procedure in that regard," said Deborah LaFetra from the Pacific Legal Foundation.

In the five-to-two ruling, the majority of Justices said: "No state law could completely legalize marijuana for medical purposes because the drug remains illegal under federal law."

"This is just more evidence that the state and federal government refuse to cooperate on the issue of medical use of marijuana," said former Federal prosecutor Bill Portanova.

Assemblyman Mark Leno says he doesn't want any more Californians sent to the unemployment line and is already pushing a proposal to protect them.

"It would be illegal to discriminate against someone merely because they use medical marijuana under Proposition 215," said Assemblyman Mark Leno (D) San Francisco.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Joyce Kennard said the ruling lacked compassion and disrespects the California Medical Marijuana Law.