Local News | Oregon Court of Appeals protects medical marijuana | Seattle Times Newspaper PORTLAND — The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that an employer must make a reasonable accommodation for medical marijuana use for a disability.
In an opinion issued Wednesday, the appeals court upheld a ruling by the state Bureau of Labor and Industries.
The agency said that Emerald Steel Fabricators in Eugene violated state laws barring discrimination against the disabled by discharging an employee who used medical marijuana.
A key issue was the fact the employee never used marijuana in the workplace — an issue the Oregon Supreme Court avoided in 2006 when it ruled against a registered medical marijuana user fired from his job at a Columbia Forest Products plant after urine tests detected traces of the drug.
Employers do not have to let patients smoke medical marijuana in the workplace. But the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act approved by voters in 1998 was unclear about whether employers must accommodate workers who smoke medical marijuana off the job.
In the opinion by Judge Timothy Sercombe, the Oregon Court of Appeals went back over the 2006 Oregon Supreme Court ruling to emphasize the Emerald Steel employee never used the marijuana at work — just like the worker in the Columbia Forest case.
Medical marijuana has been opposed by the construction industry, which wants laws to prohibit medical marijuana users from potentially hazardous jobs such as operating heavy machinery.
Supporters of restrictions on medical marijuana use, including state Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, have said they are trying to ensure public safety.
But medical marijuana activist John Sajo says that during legislative hearings last year, nobody was able to identify a single case where a medical marijuana patient had caused a workplace accident or problem.
Rep. Schaufler sure had a fun time during testimony from some of us Oregon activists. We printed up flyers accusing Schaufler of instituting job discrimination against the sick and disabled. Schaufler replied that the whole set of Oregon Revised Statutes are books full of discrimination, for example, it discriminates against him performing brain surgery or building a 100-ft tower in his yard.
When a politician can’t tell the difference between reasonable regulations based on public safety and unreasonable regulations designed to discriminate, you know you’ve got a tough battle on your hands. They think a medical marijuana patient at work is as dangerous as a state representative performing brain surgery.
See, Schaufler, like lots of people, think that the medical marijuana patient is going to be running around like Cheech & Chong all the time, hot-boxing the cab of the crane or giggling when they notice they’ve been parked in the bulldozer for the past twenty minutes. They really think we’re crazy to, in their mind, put Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High behind the bandsaw at the mill or put The Dude from The Big Lebowski in charge of demolition at the construction site. They really can’t see that marijuana “should be treated like other medicines”, just as it says in the law.
They seem to have no issue with the users of heavy prescription drugs; in fact, we brought forth proposals that would actually test for impairment rather than the quality of a worker’s urine. That was soundly rejected; why, it might burden those workers who use Ambien, Xanax, OxyContin, Percocet, Prozac, or even who just like to knock back a beer or two during lunch. We can only conclude that it’s not the impairment they really care about, it losing their right to fire whom they consider “potheads”.
Schaufler also had a hard time explaining how this was a measure to promote public safety. Since Oregon’s medical marijuana law went into effect in 1999, we’ve seen workplace fatalities remain more or less steady and workdays lost from injuries drop, even as the patient population grew from 600 in 2000 to almost 20,000 today. If medical marijuana users in the workplace are such a hazard, where are the bodies?