CA Supreme Court to Hear Medical Marijuana Right to Work Case

November 02, 2007

Sacramento, CA -- Gary Ross, a 45-year old disabled veteran and a medical marijuana patient living in Carmichael, California, is at the forefront of a landmark employment case, with significant ramifications for patients in California and across the country. Ross was fired in September 2001 for failing an employer-mandated drug test while working as a systems engineer for RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc. The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Ross v. RagingWire case on Tuesday, November 6 at 9am in Sacramento.

What:    Oral arguments before the California Supreme Court on the right to work for medical marijuana patients in the case of Ross v. RagingWire

When:    Tuesday, November 6 at 9am

Where:    Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building, 914 Capitol Mall, Sacramento

Who:    Statements will be made immediately succeeding the hearing by plaintiff Gary Ross, Americans for Safe Access Chief Counsel Joe Elford, and attorney Stewart Katz (both are co-counsel in the case)

“Neither the People of California nor the state legislature intended to exclude medical marijuana patients from a productive workforce,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), who will argue as co-counsel before the State Supreme Court. “California must continue its leadership role in protecting disabled workers,” continued Elford. “The Court must rule on the side of Ross, and on the side of thousands of California patients that risk discrimination on a daily basis.”

Ross’s physician had recommended he use cannabis for chronic back pain, resulting from injuries sustained during his military service. But his employer, RagingWire Telecommunications, refused to make an exception to its policy of terminating anyone testing positive for marijuana. “As a productive employee, I had sought to establish a career at RagingWire,” said plaintiff Gary Ross. “Yet, I was fired not for poor performance, but for an antiquated policy on medical marijuana,” continued Ross. “This practice allows employers to undermine state law and the protections provided for patients.”

After Ross was fired in 2001, he filed suit, arguing that RagingWire illegally discriminated against him because of his condition. However, a Sacramento Superior Court, and then the Third Appellate District Court both rejected his argument. In October 2005, ASA appealed to the California Supreme Court on behalf of Ross. Strong public support has been shown for Ross and the plight of California patients maintaining and seeking employment. Multiple amici curiae, or ‘friend of the court’ briefs, were filed in July 2006, including one from all of the original co-authors of SB 420, state legislation that helped to define the rights of medical marijuana patients, one from 10 national and state medical organizations such as the American Nurses Association, the California Nurses Association, and the American Pain Foundation, as well as one from disability rights organizations. Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), one of the co-authors of SB 420 and a co-signer on the legislative amicus brief had this to say: “Mr. Ross is not only standing up for his own rights, but for the rights of every Californian to comply with Proposition 215 and not face discrimination at work.”

Since it began recording instances of employment discrimination in 2005, ASA has received hundreds of such reports from all across California. Employers that have either fired patients from their job, threatened them with termination, or denied them employment because of patient status or because of a positive test for marijuana, include Costco Wholesale, UPS, Foster Farms Dairy, DirecTV, the San Joaquin Courier, Power Auto Group, as well as several construction companies, hospitals, and various trade union employers.

Further information:

Photo of Gary Ross: http://safeaccessnow.org/img/original/Ross_pic3.jpg
Opening Supreme Court brief filed by ASA: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CSC_Brief.pdf
Opposition brief filed by RagingWire Telecommunications: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CSC_Ross_RW_Opp.pdf
Medical-based amicus brief: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/ross_medical.pdf
Legislative-based amicus brief: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/ross_legislative.pdf
Disability rights amicus brief: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/ross_disability.pdf

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