Thursday, April 17, 2008

Medical Marijuana Employment Rights Bill Passes Two State Assembly Committees

Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release:* April 17, 2008

*/Anti-discrimination bill AB2279 has broad support including state SEIU

*Sacramento, CA* -- A state medical marijuana employment rights bill,
which has the support of statewide SEIU and AFSCME and the nearly 1
million workers they represent in California, was approved today by the
Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on a 6-2 vote. AB2279, which
protects the rights of hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana
patients in California from employment discrimination, was introduced in
February by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and co-authored by
Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and
Lori SaldaƱa (D-San Diego). The bill, which heads to the Assembly floor
next, reverses a January California Supreme Court decision in /Ross v.
RagingWire/. National medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for
Safe Access (ASA) argued the case before the court and is now a sponsor
of the bill.

"We're grateful for the support of the state legislature in preserving
the rights of patients to work and be productive members of society,"
said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "With the jobs of thousands of sick
Californians hanging in the balance, we are hopeful that the full
Assembly will act in similar fashion to the Labor and Judiciary
Committees." The bill, which also has the support of the National Lawyer
Guild, was passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 8, on
a 6-3 vote. Other supporters of AB2279 include the West Hollywood
Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of People With AIDS, AIDS
Institute, and AIDS Project Los Angeles.

The bill leaves intact existing state law prohibiting medical marijuana
consumption at the workplace and protects employers from liability by
carving out an exception for safety-sensitive positions. "The California
Supreme Court decision said that an employer may fire someone solely
because they use medical marijuana outside the workplace," Mr. Leno said
in a previous statement. "Long ago, the legislature prohibited patient
use of medical cannabis in the workplace or during working hours,"
continued Leno. "AB 2279 is merely an affirmation of the intent of the
voters and the legislature that medical marijuana patents need not be
unemployed to benefit from their medicine."

On January 24, in a 5-2 decision, the California Supreme Court upheld a
lower court's ruling that denied qualified patients a remedy from
employment discrimination, based either on their status as a patient or
a positive test for marijuana. The plaintiff in the case, Gary Ross, is
a 46-year old disabled veteran who was a systems engineer living
Carmichael, California, when he was fired from his job in 2001 at
RagingWire Telecommunications for testing positive for marijuana. "It's
important that we not allow employment discrimination in California,"
said former plaintiff Gary Ross. "If the court is going to ignore the
need for protection, then it's up to the legislature to ensure that
productive workers like me are free from discrimination."

The decision in /Ross v. RagingWire/ dealt a harsh blow to patients in
the courts, shifting the debate to the state legislature. But, before
the court made its final decision, Ross enjoyed the support of ten state
and national medical organizations, all of the original co-authors of
the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420), and disability rights
groups. Since it began recording instances of employment discrimination
in 2005, ASA has received hundreds of such reports from all across

Further information:
Employment rights legislation AB2279:
ASA page on AB2279, including Fact Sheet and Letters of Support:
Legal briefs and rulings in the /Ross v. RagingWire/ case:

# # #

With over 30,000 active members in more than 40 states, Americans for
Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of
patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens
promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and
research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating
policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and
researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots
actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.

Kris Hermes
Media Specialist
Americans for Safe Access
1322 Webster Street, Suite 402
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510-251-1856 x307
Fax: 510-251-2036

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest
national member-based organization of patients,
medical professionals, scientists and concerned
citizens promoting safe and legal access to
cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

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