Medical Marijuana Bill Passes State Senate Judiciary Committee

April 05, 2011

Toni McAllister, Patch.com

Medical marijuana is making its way through the State Senate, and so far Sacramento is receptive.

On Tuesday, the State Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 to approve SB 129, a bill that aims to protect medical marijuana patients from discrimination in the workplace.

The bill, which is sponsored by the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), now moves to the senate floor for a vote.

Supporters say SB 129, introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) in January, is an attempt to clarify the legislative intent of the state's Medical Marijuana Program Act that became law on Jan. 1, 2004.

"When Californians approved the compassionate use of cannabis, they never intended for it to apply only to unemployed people," Leno said. "With unemployment at record-high rates, we should be doing everything we can to keep productive and responsible members of the workforce in their jobs."

The bill would reverse a 2008 California Supreme Court ruling in Ross v. RagingWire that granted employers the right to fire or refuse to hire workers with a physician's recommendation for medical marijuana.

Within two weeks after the court ruling, then-Assemblymember Leno introduced AB 2279, an identical bill to SB 129. AB 2279 passed both houses of the California legislature in 2008, but was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.

Although SB 129 seeks to end discrimination against medical marijuana patients, the bill contains language that prohibits on-the-job impairment. It leaves intact existing state law that prohibits medical marijuana consumption at the workplace or during working hours, and exempts from the law safety-sensitive positions such as health care providers, school bus drivers, and operators of heavy equipment.



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