For Immediate Release
ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361 or ASA California Director Don Duncan 323-326-6347
Medical Marijuana Employment Rights Bill Introduced in California Legislature
Author State Senator Mark Leno argues that patients should have the right to work
(D-San Francisco) introduced legislation Thursday that would
prevent California employers from discriminating against medical
marijuana patients. Senate Bill 129 would not change current law,
which prohibits employees from using medical marijuana at the
workplace. According to Senator Leno, his bill "simply establishes
a medical cannabis patient's right to work." SB 129 would reverse
a 2008 California Supreme Court ruling that granted employers the
right to fire or refuse to hire workers with a physician's
recommendation for medical marijuana. Advocates have estimated
that more than 400,000 medical marijuana patients live in
"The people who voted for Proposition 215
never intended to force
law-abiding patients out of a job," said Don
Duncan, California Director with Americans for Safe Access, the
country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group and sponsors of
the legislation."Like anyone else, patients just want to be
productive members of society," continued Duncan. "Why must
hundreds of thousands of Californians be denied their civil
rights, and be forced to live with the risk of losing their job
due to their choice of medication?"
ASA was also the
sponsor of a similar bill, AB 2279, which was introduced in 2008
by then-State Assemblymember Mark Leno, less than a week after the
California Supreme Court ruling in Ross v. RagingWire
Telecommunications. AB 2279, which had strong support from a
broad coalition of disability rights, labor, medical and legal
groups, passed both houses but was ultimately vetoed by Governor
Schwarzenegger. Senator Leno and ASA will be working together over
the next few weeks to shore up even greater support for the new
"This bill is not about being under the
influence while at work," said Senator Leno in a previous statement. "That's against the law, and will remain
so." The bill leaves intact existing state law that
prohibits medical marijuana consumption at the workplace or during
working hours and exempts from the law "safety-sensitive"
positions such as health care providers, school bus drivers, and
operators of heavy equipment in order to protect employers from
liability and to ensure public safety.
The California Supreme Court ruling stems
from a lawsuit filed by Gary Ross who was fired in 2001 from his
systems engineering job at RagingWire Telecommunications for
testing positive for marijuana. Ross, a disabled medical marijuana patient in
his mid-40s, was injured while in the Air Force and
uses marijuana to treat chronic back pain from his injury. After
losing in the court of appeal, Ross appealed, with the help of
ASA, to the California Supreme Court. In rendering its decision,
the court overlooked amicus "friend of the court" briefs from ten
state and national medical organizations, the original co-authors
of the Medical Marijuana Program Act, and disability rights groups
in support of Ross and patients across California.
Since it began recording instances of
employment discrimination in 2005, ASA has received hundreds of
such reports from patients across California.
Employment rights legislation SB 129: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.
Fact Sheet on SB 129: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.
Legal briefs and rulings in the Ross v. RagingWire case: http://www.
Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.