Marijuana and the Workplace

March 13, 2007

Edward Walsh, The Oregonian

It may soon become easier for Oregon employers to enforce drug-free workplace policies, even against employees who hold valid state medical marijuana cards, under a bill passed by the Oregon Senate Wednesday.

Sponsors of the measure, Senate Bill 465, said it was meant to clarify the rights of employers under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, a ballot initiative that voters approved in 1998. That act states explicitly that employers are not required to accommodate the use of marijuana by employees who have a medical marijuana card.

According to Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, lack of clarity in the law has led to several lawsuits challenging the right of employers to enforce drug-free workplace policies against medical marijuana card holders. He said the bill would make clear that employers have a right to enforce policies such as mandatory drug testing against all employees, whether or not a drug was used in the workplace.

Opposition to the bill was led by Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, who said an individual could be denied employment or be fired simply for having a medical marijuana card. Metsger replied that nothing in the bill would require employees to disclose that they are medical marijuana card holders and that employers were free to accommodate them or not.

Calling the measure "a very broad stroke," Prozanski said the bill "will allow individuals to be discriminated against simply because they are a card holder in a state-sanctioned program."

The Senate passed the bill 23-5. Joining Prozanski in opposition were Sens. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene, Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, Margaret Carter, D-Portland, and Avel Gordly, I-Portland.

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