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When Arizona in November became the 15th state in the union to legalize medical marijuana, with voters approving Prop 203 by a thin margin, they got something that perhaps no other state has: employment protection for patients.
It’s much more difficult to get a doctor’s recommendation for cannabis in Arizona, and possession is limited to only 2.5 ounces, nobody can grow more than 12 plants, and if you live within 25 miles of a dispensary, you can’t grow at all. But unless you show up at work noticeably impaired, you won’t be fired simply for being a medical marijuana patient, points out Joe Eskinazi at the SF Weekly.
In California, Oregon, Washington, and most or all other medical marijuana states — even though you aren’t breaking the law if you use marijuana medically with a doctor’s recommendation — you can still get your ass fired in a heartbeat if, say, you have a workplace accident and get the standard urinalysis that follows.
Things are still being sorted out in the courts in Michigan, where former Wal-Mart Employee of the Year and cancer patient Joseph Casias, a legal medical marijuana patient, has sued the retail giant for firing him after a positive drug test.
So the kind of employment protection now enjoyed by Arizona patients is a big deal, according to Kris Hermes, spokesman for advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access.
“Employment and other civil rights are extremely important to patients being able to participate as productive members of society,” he told SF Weekly. “Such protections should be the foundation of any medical marijuana law.”
“A patient has a right to work and be free from discrimination at the workplace,” Hermes, based in Oakland, said. “California now has the opportunity to fix its unfair employment discrimination policy by catching up to Arizona.”
Californians would have already won employment protection two years ago, if it weren’t for the veto of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governator, yielding to pressure from the California Chamber of Commerce and other groups claiming to be worried about workers being high on the job, vetoed AB 2279, a bill authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) which would have prohibited employers from firing medical marijuana patients for showing up on a pee test.
Hermes said the ASA will ask Sen. Leno to reintroduce a bill similar to AB 2279 in hopes that incoming Gov. Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown will be more empathetic with patients than was Arnie.