The state Supreme Court ruled today that an employer can fire you if you test positive for marijuana use exempted from state prosecution by the Compassionate Use Act.
In a 5-2 decision, the court said Proposition 215, the 1996 state initiative that allowed Californians to use marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor’s recommendation, did not protect workers from dismissal for violating federal drug laws.
Prop. 215 was intended only to exempt medical marijuana users and their caregivers from prosecution under state drug laws, the court said.
“We have no reason to conclude the voters intended to speak so broadly, and in a context so far removed from the criminal law, as to require employers to accommodate marijuana use,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar said in the majority opinion.
Dissenting Justice Joyce Kennard said an employee who uses medication outside work to remedy pain or illness, and whose job performance is not affected, should be protected by state disability laws from arbitrary firing.
The voters who passed Prop. 215 “surely never intended that persons who availed themselves of its provisions would thereby disqualify themselves from employment,” said Kennard, joined by Justice Carlos Moreno.
Business organizations had come to RagingWire’s defense, noting among other things that companies that hire drug users might forfeit federal contracts.An employer who hires a medical marijuana user is “arguably being complicit in an activity that’s illegal under federal law,” RagingWire’s lawyer, Robert Pattison, told the court.
I’m really wondering why after 12 years that no case has reached the federal appellate courts on the issue of whether federal law invalidates state medical use laws. So far all the federal courts have decided is that the feds can enforce their own laws within the state.
As to the ruling in question, Kennard brought up state disability laws. Does that prevent an employer from firing someone for Vicodin use? If not, the federal vs. state question was irrelevant anyway.
Here’s the actual decision.