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Why Fire People For Medical Pot Use?

April 14, 2010

Made by me.
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Even if you use it responsibly, marijuana is the only drug you can get fired for using legally in California.

Each day, many of Californians show up for work medicated, even hung over, and the only person the employer can legally fire is the pot smoker.

Christian Hughes managed a senior citizens apartment complex near Redding for five years.  A new company bought the complex and implemented drug testing.  Hughes failed and was fired despite:

Informing his new employer that he used medical marijuana outside the workplace under his doctor’s advice.

A five-year work history with no evidence of impairment on the job.  Residents never even knew he smoked medicinally.

The irony that pot probably made it easier for him to do his job, as it helped relieve pain from a shattered jaw sustained in a car accident.

Pot helped him get back to work.  We want folks to work, don’t we? Christian’s new employers saw it differently.  But after a month on unemployment, Christian found similar work with another company at a facility in Red Bluff.

Christian’s biggest mistake: He wasn’t using something worse, like Vicodin, OxyContin or Percocet.  Such prescription drugs are far more dangerous.  Over-the-counter allergy medicines warn us not to operate heavy equipment.  Alcohol can have immediate debilitating effects.

In most cases those trace elements in a drug test will get you fired.

The problem: We’re conflating usage with impairment.

No impaired employee should be on the job, and employers should be able to fire an impaired employee if his condition impacts job performance, jeopardizes the safety of individuals, co-workers or customers, or puts companies at risk of liability.

But that’s not what this is about.  Whether it’s the 2008 state Supreme Court ruling allowing employers to fire medicinal users or federal laws making marijuana illegal no matter the use, what this really boils down to is zero tolerance based on old-school paradigms, arcane drug laws, hypocritical prejudices and outright ignorance.

It’s a bias based on underlying beliefs within lingering remnants of society that pot smokers are dopers, hippies and Dorito-munching deadbeats leeching off the system while listening to Grateful Dead albums on vinyl.

For instance, the California Chamber of Commerce argues that an employer’s right to maintain a drug-free workplace is critical in order to protect the safety of all workers and limit exposure to potentially costly litigation.

Please! What the chamber really thinks is that pot smokers and only pot smokers are dangerous.  Otherwise they’d insist that all drug-tested employees who show traces of prescription drugs, allergy medicines and alcohol be subject to firing.

Indeed, they should be subject to termination, if they smoke on the job, drink on the job, are impaired on the job.  Someone who smokes medicinally after dinner is no more impaired the next morning than the employee in the afternoon who had a cocktail at lunch.  But our preconceived notions tell us the pot smoker is a subhuman lawbreaker and the cocktail drinker is a white collar professional.

Christian Hughes wasn’t fired for performing tasks made more dangerous by smoking pot.  He was fired simply for smoking pot despite its medical approval by a licensed physician, its legal protection under Proposition 215 and his responsible usage as an exceptional employee.

It’s not the substance that makes an employee a liability; it’s the behavior that makes the employee a liability.  You fire the behavior, not the drug.

A 2008 bill introduced by then-Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would have allowed employers to fire workers who were impaired on the job, but protected employees from being targeted because of their medical status as marijuana-medicating patients.

“Otherwise,” says now-state Sen.  Leno, “you might as well have passed a law that stipulates you can’t smoke medical marijuana unless you’re unemployed.  That’s the logic.”

The bill passed both houses of the Legislature, but Gov.  Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it.  Leno says he’ll try again with a newly elected governor.

Back when I went to work for ABC News, I took a drug test.  In private, I took the cup handed to me by the attendant and poured in a bottle of warm apple juice.  I immediately felt better knowing this would befuddle some poor lab technician.

It didn’t get that far.

With a quizzical look on her face, the attendant held the cup to the light and said, “My, this sure looks peculiar.” I grabbed the cup and said, “Well, maybe we better run it through again.” I drank it, and the woman shrieked in horror and fainted to the floor.

I still got hired.

I don’t do drugs, don’t smoke or drink.  But targeting pot smokers just because they’re pot smokers is beyond unfair.

If we think it ludicrous to suspend a third-grader for bringing nail clippers to school, then it’s equally absurd to fire someone for traces of pot smoked at home despite a job history showing no evidence of impairment at work.

Let’s address the abuse and not the use of a drug — any drug.  We’re smart enough to know the difference.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Organic Marijuana permalink
    April 15, 2010 11:44 pm

    I have some sites you can use. (jobs, apartments, lawyers, doctors and clinics) (Related to two magazines.)
    – Cannabis Connoisseur
    – Grow Magazine

    I have had 10 years working experience in marketing, sales, media relations, public speaking, networking, and finance.

    I am a licensed medical marijuana patient, and I have spent the last three years helping potential patients obtain their medical marijuana licenses. I now work as a writer, publicist, and freelance marketing agent.

    I look forward to hearing back from you, and wish you luck with your future cannabis related endeavors.


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