Worker fired for medical marijuana use has lawsuit reinstated

January 12, 2005

Associated Press, Arizona Central

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Court of Appeals has reinstated a lawsuit filed by a man who alleged that his employer failed to accommodate his use of medical marijuana.
Robert Washburn's employer, Portland-based Columbia Forest Products, fired him from its Klamath Falls mill after urine tests detected marijuana residue in his system.

Washburn suffers from neck pain and muscle spasms that disrupt his sleep. He obtained a state-issued medical marijuana registration card 1999.

A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge had tossed out Washburn's lawsuit, ruling that the state Medical Marijuana Act doesn't require a company to make accommodations for workers with marijuana in their system.

But the Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a positive drug test based on a urine sample does not prove that a worker used or possessed marijuana at work. It also found that the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act does not prohibit workers in Oregon from using marijuana for medical purposes.

But the court also found that Washburn's use of medical marijuana does not automatically entitle him to accommodation. Instead, the court said, an employer could argue that certain accommodations might be unreasonable or create an 'undue hardship.'

The appeals court ordered the Multnomah County Circuit Court to decide whether Washburn's accommodation request was reasonable.

Philip Lebenbaum, an attorney who represented Washburn, called the decision a victory for workers who use marijuana for medical reasons. But he said the ruling does not allow workers to show up unfit for work.

States with medical marijuana laws are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. if(ScriptsLoaded) stInit();


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