Leno bill aims to protect working medical marijuana patients
In 2008, then-state Assemblyman Mark Leno got a bill passed in both houses of the California Legislature to prohibit employees from firing workers simply because they were medical marijuana patients.
A little more than two years after the bill was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leno, now a Democratic state senator from San Francisco, has introduced similar legislation.
Leno's Senate Bill 129 would prohibit employers from discriminating against workers with medical marijuana recommendations in hiring or firing decisions or in their rights to participate in the workplace.
The bill would allow employers to fire workers for impairment on the job. A summary of the bill said employers in fields, "in which medical cannabis-affected performance could endanger the health and safety of others," would be exempt from the legislation. Those who wouldn't be protected by the bill would include school bus drivers and other transportation workers, operators of heavy equipment and health care providers.
Leno introduced his earlier bill after the California Supreme Court ruled on behalf of employers in a landmark 2008 case on marijuana in the workplace. The court ruled that California's 1996 Proposition 215 medical marijuana law doesn't require employers to make accommodations or waive any workplace rules for legal cannabis users.
The Supreme Court case upheld the firing of a Carmichael man who was dismissed after failing a drug test as a condition of employment at a Sacramento firm, RagingWire Telecommunications. Ross had told his employer that he had a medical recommendation for back pain and spasms from injuries suffered in the U.S. Air Force.
Leno charged that the court's interpretation effectively said that California voters had approved the legal use of medical marijuana only "to benefit unemployed people." He said his bill will put it into law that "a medical marijuana patient has a right to employment in California."
The last time Leno introduced the marijuana employment measure he faced opposition from The California Chamber of Commerce. In an interview with The Sacramento Bee last year, Denise Davis, CalChamber's vice president for media relations said, "An employer's right to maintain a drug-free workplace is critical."
The Chamber later opposed last year's Proposition 19 initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use on grounds that it could subject employers to costly litigation, create a workforce of stoned employees and make it difficult for employers to fire workers without proof of impairment on the job.
Leno argued that improved drug-testing technologies can detect workers' current impairment for marijuana, making it easier for employers to enforce workplace standards.
Sask Delegate Sparks Debate Over Medical Marijuana
While members of Parliament head back to the hill Monday, medical marijuana advocates from across the country are following suite. What began as a Facebook support group for medical marijuana users, has grown into a lobby group with a country-wide network and Monday members of the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations lobby group are taking their message to the top.
“We’re going to occupy the public gallery in the House of Commons. Our goal is to respectfully follow the rules of Parliament; exercise our right to observe those who are deciding our fate; speak publicly about our situation and lobby for change,” said Saskatchewan’s only delegate Caleb Hubbell.
When Hubbell was six, he was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease and by 12 had severe arthritis. He was managing his conditions until a couple years ago when he was crushed by a sheet of steel while on the job and hasn’t worked since. “Doctors had me on such a high narcotic painkiller regime. I was taking morphine patches, delotid and other medication and was getting heartburn from all the pills. And then I was having problems sleeping because of all the pills and my body started shutting down after about two years on pills.”
Marijuana grow houses are a growing controversy at Denver City Council
In the fall of 2009, Denver City Council rep Charlie Brown realized that the city had to get a handle on the booming medical marijuana dispensary industry -- and even as the Colorado Legislature was just starting to discuss MMJ, Denver was signing off on its ordinance. But now the city needs to revise its Denver Medical Marijuana Code to deal with certain provisions of the state law and the growing controversy over grow houses.
Marijuana Activists Fight DEA Efforts to Eviscerate Medical Privacy
If the State of Michigan won't protect the people, activists will. So went the cry of medical marijuana groups in Michigan this week, concerned that the privacy of medical marijuana patients there is at grave risk. According to reports, the Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs filed an emergency motion this week to halt efforts by the federal government to gain access to the records of several Michigan medical marijuana patients. As a result, A U.S. District Court hearing this week that would have decided whether the Michigan Department of Community Health would have to comply with a June subpoena by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the records was postponed until Feb. 1, giving a host of advocacy groups a chance to file amicus "friend of the court" briefs against the DEA's efforts.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) said it filed its own brief on Thursday, pointing out that the current medical marijuana law in Michigan protects the privacy of patients and that the state is obligated at all costs to uphold it, even at the risk of crossing the federal government. "We must do everything we can to protect that right to privacy, especially for medical marijuana patients who remain vulnerable due to an outdated federal law," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, author of the group's amicus brief, in a statement. "Patient privacy is an important ethical and public health issue of our time, regardless of whether patients benefit from the use of medical marijuana." For its part, the DEA is seeking "copies of any and all documents, records, applications, payment method of any application for Medical Marijuana Patient Cards and Medical Marijuana Caregiver cards and copies of front and back of any cards located for the seven named individuals" in an ongoing investigation. While the DEA has declined to name the individuals or provide any details of the case, activists believe it is connected with an investigation into medical marijuana patients and caregivers in the Lansing area.
So far, the state has refused the DEA's request, arguing that turning over the records would actually put the Department of Community Health at risk of breaking its own law. Unfortunately, the DEA has an ally in new state Attorney General Bill Schuette, a vocal opponent of the medical marijuana program. Court records reveal that his office has already agreed to turn over the records if the court orders it -- and if the department and its employees are given immunity from liability for breaking the privacy provisions in the law. The state's medical marijuana law says such disclosures are punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine of up to $1,000. In the emergency motion to stop the court proceedings this week, Traverse City attorney Jesse Williams, representing the compassion clubs, said that based on the language in the DEA's subpoena it is "highly likely" that it is after more than just the records of seven people, making this fight a more critical crossroads forMichigan's nascent medical marijuana law (it only went into effect in 2009).
Calif lawmaker would bar firings for medipot use
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A California lawmaker wants to prohibit employers from firing qualified medical marijuana users who consume pot when they're not on the job.
The bill proposed by Democratic state Sen. Mark Leno would also make it illegal for employers not to hire someone solely because they use marijuana for medical reasons.
Leno in 2007 proposed a similar bill that was passed by the legislature but vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The California Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that nothing in the state's current medical marijuana laws bars an employer from firing medical marijuana users who test postive for pot.
Leno's bill would exempt from protection workers such as doctors, nurses, school bus drivers and heavy equipment operators who hold so-called safety sensitive jobs.
Medical Cannabis Symposium
About 50 community members attended a recent seminar sponsored by Ukiah's three cannabis dispensaries: Compassionate Heart, MJ's Place and Reflections of Avalon, for an afternoon of presentations and discussion - the first of what sponsors hope will be many future events. MediCann is the nation's largest provider of medical marijuana recommendations - more than 230,000 to date. MediCann founder Dr. Jean Tallerand presented the history of marijuana - discussing the etymological meaning of cannabis and its usage dating from Persia in 8000 B.C. to the present. "Cannabis is the oldest nonfood crop cultivated by humans," said Tallerand. Citing research from Ukiah Daily Journal archives, Dr. Tallerand drew chuckles quoting a 1907 edition of the Ukiah Dispatch Democrat reporting that the "queer smokes gave one a desire to caress one's feet." A Garden Club report in a 1934 Redwood Journal article quoted a member who "gave a reading on marijuana, a most interesting and lovely plant." Tallerand says "our dualistic history with cannabis" continues unabated, noting as a federally classified Schedule I drug, cannabis has no accepted medical use. "Yet drug companies developed a synthetic version of THC- marinol," said Tallerand, demonstrating the discontinuity between federal regulations and the FDA's acceptance of synthesized cannabis as medicine.
Tim Blake, proprietor of Laytonville's Area 101 and founder of thebannual Emerald Cup outdoor cannabis competition discussed challenges for outdoor growers. "Today we grow all the outdoor cannabis we need but can't get it to the marketplace. Mendo's crop was four times larger than last year, but we retain less than 18 percent of market share. We have a whole generation that doesn't like outdoor cannabis. It's a tough market to break," he noted. Blake feels the future of the cannabis industry is producing strains high in "CBDs" - molecular compounds providing patients with more health and less "high." He emphasized his success with the 9.31 program and encouraged growers to join. "If you're not an inlaw, you're an outlaw," Blake cautioned.
Dr. Mark Rabe, MediCann's director of patient services, reviewed cannabis and patient health. "MediCann patient profiles include the elderly suffering from osteoporosis, hospice patients, glaucoma, chronic pain, insomnia, arthritis, migraines, cancer, HIV and MS," he said. Rabe discussed the role of CBDs and the brain's endocannabinoid receptor sites. "Cannabis binds to these receptor sites located on cell membranes. This causes intracellular reactions resulting in relief from pain and nausea, lowering of intra-ocular pressure in glaucoma patients, changes in the gastrointestinal system and reduction of inflammation and blood pressure." Ukiah's MediCann physician Dr. John Lovejoy discussed cannabis use during pregnancy and breast feeding, citing four years of county public health statistics from 1,261 pregnant mothers.
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