Arizona More Progressive Than California? When it Comes to Marijuana, Yes.
December 19, 2010
Chris Roberts, SF WeeklyArizona's taken quite the beating from Californians recently, what with the red state's anti-immigrant, anti-civilization stance creating both headlines and policy. But Arizona's not all bad -- in fact, it can be downright progressive. In at least one instance, more progressive than California. The Retiree State became the 15th in the union to approve medical marijuana in November, when its voters gave the green light to Proposition 203 by a razor-thin margin. Most California marijuana users would think the Arizona law sucks: It's much more difficult to get a recommendation ("anxiety" or "insomnia" won't work), possession is limited to 2.5 ounces (compared to at least eight in California -- more in some counties), no patient can grow more than 12 plants, and patients can't grow any plants at all if they live within 25 miles of one of the few dispensaries to be allowed in the state.
Nobody is going to mistake Maricopa for Mendocino County anytime soon, but medical cannabis patients in Arizona have one gigantic leg up over their California counterpart: Employment protection.
That's right, kids: In California, a positive drug test can still get you fired from your job, recommendation or no recommendation. In Arizona, unless you show up to the job blitzed out of your mind with a joint hanging out of your mouth, you're good.
How big is this? Huge, says Kris Hermes, Oakland-based spokesman for the national chapter of Americans for Safe Access. "Employment and other civil rights are extremely important to patients being able to participate as productive members of society," he told SF Weekly. "Such protections should be the foundation of any medical marijuana law."
Californians would have had employment protection for about two years now, if not for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The guvernator, bending to pressure from the California Chamber of Commerce and other groups ranting about a stoned workplace (sound familiar?), vetoed AB 2279, a bill authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would have prohibited employers from firing workers based upon a bad pee test.
Things are changing: A Michigan cancer patient is taking Wal-Mart, his former employer, to federal court after the retail giant canned him for using doctor-prescribed pot to combat an inoperable brain tumor. Staffers in Leno's office say that the senator isn't sure what he'll introduce in the next legislative session; the senator has making national headlines at the moment for the audacious notion of including positive references to gay people in history textbooks. The ASA's Hermes says his group will ask Leno to reintroduce a bill similar to AB 2279 with the hopes that Gov. Jerry Brown will be more compassionate than Arnold was.
"A patient has a right to work and be free from discrimination at the workplace," Hermes said. "California now has the opportunity to fix its unfair employment discrimination policy by catching up to Arizona."
You read that right. In Arizona, "papers, please" isn't necessarily a horrible thing to hear.