Bill would protect pot users' jobs

February 21, 2008

Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune

A new Assembly bill with two Bay Area co-authors seeks to protect medical-marijuana users' jobs.

AB 2279, introduced Wednesday, would prohibit employment discrimination against those who use marijuana as medicine in compliance with state law away from the workplace. It would leave intact already existing provisions barring consumption in the workplace, and would protect employers from liability by carving out an exception for safety-sensitive jobs.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, had vowed to introduce such a bill last month after the state Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that an employer can fire a worker solely for medical pot use outside of work.

"AB 2279 is merely an affirmation of the intent of the voters and the legislature that medical marijuana patients need not be unemployed to benefit from their medicine," Leno said in a news release issued Thursday.

The co-authors are Assemblywomen Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Patty Berg, D-Eureka; and Lori Saldana, D-San Diego. It's sponsored by Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, a nonprofit which had argued for the plaintiff in the state Supreme Court case.

"Despite the ill-conceived ruling by the California Supreme Court, the intent of state legislatures has been to recognize the civil rights of patients and to offer them reasonable protections," ASA spokesman Kris Hermes said Thursday.

ASA says companies that have fired medical-pot users, threatened their jobs or denied them jobs include Cost-co, UPS, Foster Farms Dairy, DirecTV, the San Joaquin Courier, Power Auto Group and several construction firms, hospitals and trade union employers.

Similar bills have been proposed in Oregon and Hawaii.

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