CA voters must take the lead in employment rights

[caption id="attachment_2240" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="CA Senator Mark Leno"]

A bill by California Senator Mark Leno (D-SF) that would have prevented employment discrimination against legal medical cannabis patients will not be adopted by the California legislature this year. Senator Leno decided not to ask his colleagues to vote on SB 129 before today’s deadline for Senate approval. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) sponsored the bill and worked closely with the Author to build support for the SB 129. Unfortunately, we were unable to secure the majority of votes needed to guarantee a victory in the Senate.

Then Assemblymember Leno first introduced this bill in 2008, following the California Supreme Court decision in Ross v. Ragingwire. The Ross decision held that medical cannabis patients are not protected from employment discrimination by Proposition 215. The state legislature approved AB 2279 that year, but it was vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Senator Leno re-introduced the bill as SB 129 last year, in hopes that Governor Brown would be more sympathetic. Unfortunately, we have run out of time to persuade a handful of ambivalent Democrats to support the bill before today’s deadline for a vote on bills from last year.

Senator Leno and other lawmakers may pick up the mantle of patients’ rights again in the future, but it is time now for voters to take the lead. The campaign to adopt the Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act of 2012 (MMCRT) will begin in earnest in February. This voter initiative will create a safe, regulated access model for medical cannabis, while preserving the rights of patients under Proposition 215. Additionally, the MMRCT will help to protects’ civil rights – including protection from employment discrimination. The MMRCT states that
Persons using marijuana medicinally pursuant to Section 11362.5 [Proposition 215] are entitled to the same rights and protections from civil and criminal liability as users of prescription drugs under California law.

ASA is committed to protecting patients’ rights, and the MMRCT is an important part of that effort. We have hit a roadblock in the legislature for now. That means it is time for the voters to lead on this issue again. The MMRCT will help address some long-standing issues for California patients – and it may serve to push lawmakers in the right direction. Look for news from ASA about what you can do to support MMRCT soon.

You can join a constituents’ conference call about the voter initiative on Thursday, February 2, 2012, at 5:00 PM PST. Dial (832) 431-3335 to connect to the call, and then enter pass code 1618568# to join the conversation.

On behalf of ASA, I want to thank Senator Leno and his staff for their leadership and hard work in protecting patients’ rights since 2008. I also want to thank the thousands of ASA members who supported the bill.