Nurse claims he was fired for pot advocacy

May 19, 2006

Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette-Times (OR)

A longtime Samaritan Health Services nurse is contesting his dismissal, claiming he was fired not because of his job performance but because he has been an outspoken advocate of medical marijuana.

An executive of the health care network disputes that claim.

Ed Glick was terminated April 18 from his job as a nurse at Samaritan Regional Mental Health Center in Corvallis after he refused to take a drug test.

According to Glick, the demand that he submit to urinalysis came during a meeting to discuss omissions in the paperwork he did on several patients. He said the gaps were minor and occurred when he was working an exceptionally busy weekend shift that required him to rush through the numerous admission forms to attend to the patients’ immediate needs.

When a supervisor insisted he take a drug test, Glick said, he refused and walked out of the meeting. He was then fired.

“I was ambushed in a meeting with the supervisors,” Glick said. “The real reason I was fired is I’ve been doing medical cannabis nursing for 10 years.”

Oregon is one of about a dozen states that allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes, but the practice remains highly controversial.

Glick, however, has never been shy about his belief that pot has therapeutic value, calling it a “miracle medicine.”

At work, he has made a point of making notes in patients’ medical charts about their use of marijuana to treat their health problems, which can be a preliminary step to getting a state marijuana card.

On his own time, he has written letters to the Gazette-Times, produced an informational CD about the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act and petitioned a judge to expand the law. He hands out business cards identifying him as a medical cannabis nurse. On April 8, a little over a week before he was fired, Glick gave a presentation to the National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in Santa Barbara, Calif.

He also volunteers at the Compassion Center, a nonprofit clinic in Eugene that provides counseling and educational services related to medical marijuana.

According to Glick, he has seen patients from Corvallis at the Compassion Center who claim their Samaritan Health Services doctors have refused to help them get a prescription for marijuana, even though state law allows its use to treat pain, muscle spasms, loss of appetite and other symptoms due to cancer, HIV and a wide range of other conditions.

“I’m being squeezed between my patients and a medical system that doesn’t care about their needs,” Glick said.

A Samaritan official denied that the health care network discourages its doctors from prescribing marijuana.

“There is no formal policy that Samaritan has ... which dictates either one way or another regarding prescriptions of marijuana,” said Steve Jasperson, chief executive officer of Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. “That’s up to the individual physician and his or her relationship with the patient.”

Jasperson also denied that Glick was fired for advocating prescription pot.

“He was terminated for good cause,” Jasperson said.

While he declined to go into detail about Glick’s job performance, Jasperson said Samaritan’s employment policies clearly state that a drug test can be required if there is “reasonable suspicion” to believe an employee is impaired.

“An employee who chooses not to take a drug test has potential consequences of that of termination,” Jasperson said.

In a statement he sent to the newspaper, Glick denied ever having come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, either at Samaritan or any other job.

Glick said he does not have a medical marijuana card and does not smoke the drug recreationally, although he did say, “I use it infrequently.”

On Monday afternoon, Glick took his cause to the streets, standing near the eastern entrance to the Good Samaritan campus with a sign that read “Fired for putting patients first.” He was joined by about 15 supporters, many of them connected with the Compassion Center.

Bill and Erin Hildebrandt came down from Lafayette with their five children to demonstrate on Glick’s behalf. Erin Hildebrandt smokes marijuana to control symptoms of Crohn’s disease, and her husband said the family moved to Oregon from Maryland so she could use the drug legally.

“It was a lot easier for us, with five small kids, to move out here and not have to worry about the cops kicking our door in and pointing guns at our kids’ heads,” he said.

Glick has filed a wrongful termination grievance against Samaritan through his union, the Oregon Nurses Association, and hopes to be vindicated through that process. But even though he loved his 15 years of working for Samaritan, he said, he doesn’t want his job back.

“I’m not expecting them to (rehire me), but I am expecting them to recognize the situation,” Glick said.

“I want Samaritan Health Services to begin recognizing that cannabis is a legitimate medicine.”

Bennett Hall is the business editor for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net.



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