Friday, March 19, 2010

Backers of medical pot want workers shielded

PHOENIX - Arizona workers who use medical marijuana - should voters
approve use of the drug in November - won't have to worry about being
fired for testing positive at work.

A proposed initiative would allow doctor-authorized use of marijuana to
relieve suffering from several specific conditions, and would allow
creation of a network of nonprofit shops that could sell the drug.

The ballot measure also contains anti-discrimination provisions,
including one that says an employer cannot make hiring, firing and
disciplinary conditions based on a person's status as the holder of a
medical marijuana card. That protection extends to someone who tests
positive for the drug unless the company can prove the person used or
possessed marijuana on the job or was "impaired" during work hours.

Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the Arizona initiative, said it is
the intent of backers to prohibit workers from being fired for testing
positive on the job.

"I believe that our language is very clear on that point," he said in
response to the revelation a worker in Michigan was fired after testing
positive. The man used marijuana under that state's law to deal with
sinus cancer and a brain tumor.

But the Michigan law does not include the same worker protections
contained in the version of the law likely to appear on the ballot here
in November. Backers claim they already have the 153,365 valid
signatures necessary to qualify.

Attorney Don Johnsen said current state and federal law does not require
companies to make accommodations or provide special treatment for those
who are using marijuana.

"This ballot initiative obviously would reverse that," he said.

Johnson said the provision allowing employers to terminate someone was
"impaired" probably won't be much of a factor because "proving something
like that is very expensive and very difficult and very risky."

Attorney David Selden said proving impairment will be difficult because,
"Unlike alcohol testing, drug testing doesn't measure the current level
of impairment."

Selden said it probably would take an employer catching someone smoking
marijuana on the job, or possessing it, to be able to fire someone.

The initiative, modeled after similar laws in other states, requires
"written certification" from a doctor to get up to 2.5 ounces of
marijuana every two weeks. The drugs would come from nonprofit

Arizona voters actually approved a measure in 1996 allowing doctors to
prescribe otherwise illegal drugs to seriously and terminally ill
patients, only to have key provisions repealed by the Legislature.

That repeal was overridden by voters in 1998. But the wording of the
measure - requiring an actual written prescription - made it useless
after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency threatened to revoke all
prescription-writing privileges of any doctor who wrote such an order.

No comments: