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  1. chillinwill
    The Oregon Supreme Court has reversed a lower court ruling that prohibited companies from firing employees who hold medical marijuana cards and use the drug.

    The ruling, released Thursday, effectively negates a provision of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act that has prevented employers from terminating card holders who violate company drug policies.

    "As Oregonians, we have always believed strongly in our ability to determine the right public policy within our own borders," said Brad Avakian, chief of Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries. "That makes today's decision all the more troubling, because it so seriously undercuts the law that Oregonians put in place, by initiative petition, in 1998."

    The Supreme Court considered the case of a man, unnamed in court papers, who began to use marijuana in 1996 after suffering anxiety, nausea, vomiting and severe stomach cramps for several years. In 2002, he obtained a medical marijuana card.

    Emerald Steel Fabricators Inc. of Eugene hired the man in January 2003 as a temporary drill press operator. He continued to use marijuana one to three times a day. His work was satisfactory and Emerald officials considered hiring him permanently.

    "Knowing that he would have to pass a drug test as a condition of permanent employment, (the) employee told his supervisor that he had a registry identification card and that he used marijuana for a medical problem," according to the Supreme Court decision. "One week later, the supervisor discharged the employee."

    The man filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries, the agency that enforces disability law and other employment protections. He accused Emerald of not accommodating his disability. The bureau agreed, filing a civil complaint against Emerald, saying that the company had illegally fired him and failed to reasonably accommodate his disability.

    An administrative law judge found that Emerald had failed to accommodate the man's disabilities, and the Oregon Court of Appeals later upheld that decision.

    By Bryan Denson
    April 15, 2010
    Oregon Live


  1. chillinwill
    Re: Oregon Supreme Court ruling reverses protection for workers who use medical marij

    Ore. medical marijuana can lead to firing

    An employer is not required to accommodate the use of medical marijuana, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a case that cost a worker his job, saying state law is trumped by federal law that classifies pot as an illegal drug.

    A legal expert called the divided 5 to 2 ruling "a shot across the bow" of those who support medical marijuana or legalizing grass altogether.

    The court overturned a state Bureau of Labor and Industries decision in favor of a worker in Eugene who was fired after telling his boss he was using medical marijuana approved by his doctor before taking a drug test.

    Anthony Scevers filed a discrimination claim against Emerald Steel Fabricators Inc., arguing the company failed to make a reasonable accommodation for a disability.

    However, the majority – in the Oregon Supreme Court opinion voiced by Justice Rives Kistler – supported the company's argument that "state law does not require an employer to accommodate an employee's use of marijuana to treat a disabling medical condition." It added that "the federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits the possession of marijuana without regard to whether it is used for medicinal purposes."

    The ruling was praised by Associated Oregon Industries, the state's largest business lobby, which wrote a friend of the court brief supporting Emerald Steel.

    "The decision now means that employers can be assured that they can consistently enforce their zero-tolerance drug policies," AOI said in a statement.

    However Brad Avakian, chief of the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, said the ruling "seriously undercuts" the Oregon medical marijuana program approved by voters in 1998.

    "The immediate impact of the Supreme Court's decision is to remove the employment protection that medical marijuana users had under Oregon's disability law," Avakian said.

    The court majority noted that its ruling did not affect the way Oregon law protects medical marijuana from any state criminal liability.

    Even though marijuana is illegal under federal law, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2009 the Obama administration would relax prosecution guidelines for medical marijuana.

    Keith Cunningham-Parmeter, a Willamette University law professor, said the Oregon Supreme Court majority went farther than needed to resolve the question of accommodation by ruling federal law pre-empted certain provisions of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.

    "There is this concept of judicial modesty that we only need to decide the limited question before us and go no further," Cunningham-Parmeter said. "The court really abandoned all attempts at judicial modesty here."

    As a result, he said, "I think this is a shot across the bow to supporters of medical marijuana or expanded legalization movements in Oregon or in other states."

    By William McCall
    April 17, 2010
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