Arizona: Medical Marijuana Law Would Protect Workers


Photo: gkissane
Arizona issued “tax stamps” for marijuana as part of Reagan’s War on Drugs in the 1980s. If a medical marijuana initiative passes in November, the Grand Canyon State will have another go at taxing cannabis.

‚ÄčWhat happened in Michigan to a WalMart worker who was fired for testing positive for doctor-recommended medical marijuana probably could not happen in Arizona — if voters approve a ballot measure in November.

The initiative would allow doctors to recommend marijuana for patients who are suffering from certain conditions, reports Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. It would also allow creation of a network of nonprofit dispensaries that would sell cannabis to those with doctor recommendations. Patients who are not within 25 miles of a dispensary would be allowed to grow their own.
The ballot measure also contains anti-discrimination provisions, including one that says an employer cannot make hiring, firing and disciplinary decisions based on a person’s status as a medical marijuana card holder.
Possibly more significant, the protection extends to someone who tests positive unless the company could prove the person used or possessed marijuana on the job, or was “impaired” during work hours.

Two labor lawyers said that will present challenges for Arizona companies in proving exactly what “impairment” occurs from marijuana use.

Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the Arizona medical marijuana initiative, said it is, in fact, the intent of backers to protect workers from being fired for testing positive on the job.
“I believe that our language is very clear on that point,” Myers said.
The Michigan case, which has received extensive publicity for the past week, involves former Associate of the Year Joseph Casias, who has a medical marijuana card under Michigan law to deal with the pain of sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor.
Casias was fired after he sprained a knee at work last November, then showed positive for marijuana when he had to take a drug test. Casias said WalMart management fired him for the positive test, telling him the store “doesn’t honor” medical marijuana cards.
Backers of the Arizona initiative said they already have the 153,365 valid signatures necessary to qualify for November’s ballot, and will file the petitions next month.
If voters legalize marijuana for medical use, patients will have to pay tax on the herb. Without debate, the Arizona Senate gave preliminary approval Thursday to legislation designating marijuana as subject to state sales tax.
That would be an exception from existing law, which exempts medications from tax.
Legislative staffers estimate the pot levy could raise $1.3 million a year at the current rate of 5.6 percent sales tax. That figure would rise if voters approve a temporary one-cent tax hike on May 18,