BROWNSVILLE (My San Antonio) — The Texas Department of Public Safety last month warned parents of Mexican gang recruitment and the Border Patrol is continuing a “scare and awe” campaign highlighting the risks, including torture and death, of cartel employment that seems to promise street status and easy money.
Laredo police have caught youths as young as 13 in cars full of marijuana still wet from the riverbank, he said, and the geography of the city is obvious enough to know where marijuana in that amount is coming from.
Customs and Border Protection officers in El Paso last March stopped eight juvenile drug smugglers, five of them U.S. citizens, with a total of 388 pounds of marijuana and 4.8 pounds of cocaine, prompting a news release warning that “traffickers will employ any and all types of people in their drug smuggling attempts.”
Since there’s no youth offender program in the federal courts, a 16-year-old caught trying to bring 200 pounds of marijuana over an international bridge will likely wind up in the state’s juvenile system, among thousands of cases heard each year by his county’s state district judges. Most records will be sealed.
Hey, young teen, likely black or Latino, has your mother or father been laid off recently? Do you need some money to help your family pay the bills in this economic downturn? If you’re lucky, maybe you can get a job at a fast food joint paying minimum wage. Maybe you can get some backbreaking field work. Or maybe you can “move a little product” and make twenty times the money doing one-fifth of the work of either of those jobs.
What do you think the border teen is going to choose? It’s a win-win for everyone involved; the teenager makes big quick money and keeps the bills paid for the family, the drug gangs get cheap labor to do the job that has the highest arrest risk and lowest correctional expense.
You know who doesn’t hire American teenagers to transport and sell their products? Beer, wine, and liquor manufacturers.
Here it is for your reading pleasure…
Recently, an RV manufacturing plant in Goshen, Indiana, made headlines because they had drug tested all 120 of their employees and found that nearly a third of them tested positive for some illicit substance.
What caused the company to drug test all of their employees? Was there a rash of accidents? Had productivity dropped significantly? Were there increasing incidents of absenteeism and illness? Did a supervisor notice any drug use occurring at the plant, or notice an employee obviously under the influence of drugs?
No. The only reason the plant spent the time, effort, and money to test their employees was due to a police tip that there was a drug problem at the plant. In other words, there was no reason for the company to believe they had a drug problem.
You would think that running a manufacturing plant with one third of your employees working under the influence would lead to some obvious problems. You’d be right. The problem is that a positive drug test does not indicate that a person is under the influence of drugs. It only indicates that a person has done drugs in the past.
The methods of drug testing have evolved over the past decade. Once, businesses, schools, and government could only test a person’s urine. These tests are so easily defeated that the tests only detect whether you’re too dumb to fool the test. But new methods of testing the blood, saliva, and hair have made fooling a drug test much harder.
With the urine test, evidence of past use of cocaine, amphetamines, and other hard drugs can be detected for up to 48 hours after use. Thus, a worker testing positive for these drugs could have ingested these substances on a Friday evening and be completely sober for work on Monday. Likewise, a person seeking a new job need only abstain from these substances for three days.
Ironically, the one drug with the lowest potential for abuse and harm, marijuana, remains detectable in a person’s urine for 14 to 45 days. It is odd to consider that for two employees passing a urine test, one may have been abstaining from smoking pot all of last month while the other may have been smoking crack all of last month up until three days ago.
The newer testing does a better job of detecting drug use; some tests can indicate the use of any illicit substance for up to three months prior to the test. However, all that means is that problem drug users who wish to go straight and re-enter the workforce have a longer wait before they can apply for work. Without gainful employment, how much harder is it for a recovering addict to stay sober?
There must be a good reason for American businesses spending up to $1 billion dollars per year on drug testing. One of the usual reasons for this expenditure is workforce productivity.
However, when independent researchers analyzed the statistics on drug testing and productivity, they found some surprising results. According to The Committee on Drug Use in the Workplace (CDUW) assembled by the government’s own National Institute of Drug Abuse, “The empirical results suggest that drug testing programs do not succeed in improving productivity. Surprisingly, companies adopting drug testing programs are found to exhibit lower levels of productivity than their counterparts that do not.”
How could a company actually lose productivity by drug testing workers? CDUW suggests four possible reasons:
1) Drug testing is expensive. Tests cost around $50 per worker. A congressional committee estimated that the cost of each positive result in government testing was $77,000 because the positive rate was only 0.5%. Then there’s the costs of administration, medical review, follow-up tests for positive results, treatment or discipline for the worker, or searching, hiring, and training a new worker.
2) Drug testing lowers employee morale. An overwhelming majority of workers find drug testing to be an invasion of privacy. They consider drug testing unfair when it is only detecting prior use, not current impairment. They find it profoundly unfair that these tests do not consider the abuse of alcohol, which is a more significant factor in workplace safety and productivity. The lowered morale causes employees to show less loyalty to a company, not work as hard, and good workers may seek other jobs with non-drug testing firms.
3) Drug use may actually increase productivity for some people. The CDUW found that moderate use of drugs or alcohol had either a positive effect or no effect on worker productivity. Numerous studies have found that moderate marijuana use actually increased productivity. Furthermore, marijuana users who are treating pain, cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, arthritis, migraines, or even depression are much more productive than they would be without treatment.
4) Drug testing may lead marijuana smokers (by far the largest segment of the drug using population) to using harder drugs. Since most workplaces still choose the cheaper urine testing over the other tests, marijuana smokers may instead use harder drugs or alcohol, all of which are flushed quickly from the system. Marijuana’s low addictiveness allows a casual user to remain healthy and productive, while the high addictiveness of the harder drugs make it more likely for the person to slip from casual use to the severe abuse that causes the illness, absenteeism, safety risks, and low productivity the drug tests were meant to alleviate in the first place.
Another excuse offered for drug testing is workplace safety. We don’t want to have drug-impaired workers operating heavy machinery, public transportation, or any other industry where safety is of paramount concern. Of course, this reasoning falls flat when we recall that drug testing does not detect impairment. But perhaps one could assume that someone who has used drugs in the past may be more likely to use them on the job and endanger fellow employees and the public.
Unfortunately, the data do not support that assumption. Many companies have used some form of impairment testing, a system that does not test for drugs, but rather hand-eye coordination, concentration, and reaction times. Those companies that have used these systems have found that severe fatigue and illness, not drug or alcohol use, are the most common causes of workplace accidents.
One added advantage of these tests is that they do reduce the level of workplace accidents. Workers are much more accepting of impairment tests, as they do not violate privacy and are perceived to be fairer than drug testing. Plus, the impairment tests are much cheaper to administer and they actually detect the problem that drug testing does not — worker impairment.
The final nail in the coffin of any workplace drug testing argument is the fact that casual drug users (once per week or less) are just as likely to find employment and hold down a job as their non-drug using counterparts. Our drug testing regime has not kept casual drug users out of the workplace at all, and those users are not adversely affecting productivity, safety, or their own career goals.
Businesses and government aren’t the only entities routinely testing for drugs. Our schools are now testing our children for evidence of illicit drug use. In a series of controversial rulings, the Supreme Court has steadily added to the number of our children being drug tested.
First they allowed students to be tested for cause; if a student was suspected of using or possessing drugs on campus, he or she could be tested. Next they ruled that students involved with extracurricular athletics could be tested randomly, citing the need for safety in potentially dangerous sports activities.
Most recently, the justices have decided that students in any extracurricular activity, from band to chess club, could be tested randomly. Justice Clarence Thomas expressed the opinion of the slim 5-4 majority stating that children involved in after-school activities voluntarily give up some of their rights to privacy.
Many of the same issues of safety and productivity are raised in support of drug testing students, and they are met with the same evidence found in the workplace: no significant differences in accidents or performance are found between schools that drug test and those that do not, nor between students who pass drug tests and those who fail.
However, with the student population there are other arguments that are stated: we need to send a message to students that drug use will not be tolerated and we need to provide incentives for students stop using drugs.
This argument also falls flat when confronted with the evidence. A federally-funded study in 2003 of over 76,000 students in almost 900 schools found no correlation between drug testing and student drug use. Kids were just as likely to use drugs at the drug testing schools as the non-drug testing schools.
Moreover, just as workplace drug testing has the unintended consequence of lowering morale and productivity, school drug testing has its unintended consequences. Kids who might be falling in with the wrong crowd are discouraged from joining the after-school sports or clubs that would provide a healthier environment. Kids already enrolled in extra-curricular activities must sacrifice their privacy and discover that their word and their achievements are not trusted.
Of course, like workplace drug testing, there’s the added expense of operating such a program, a cost that weighs heavily against chronically insufficient school budgets. The cost of one positive drug test result could have bought new instruments for the band, computers for the classroom, or equipment for the team.
Further compounding the futility of all drug testing is the fact that there is no perfect drug test. Every test gives a significant amount of false-positives and false-negatives. Many common over-the-counter medications can show up as an illicit drug. Cold tablets containing pseudoephedrine may be detected as amphetamines (speed). Cold remedies with dextromethorphan can register positive for opiates (heroin). Naproxen/ibuprofen-based pain relievers give positives for cannabis (marijuana). Nasal sprays sometimes indicate for MDMA (ecstasy).
Even some common foods can cause a failed drug test. Poppy seeds that you ingest from muffins or bagels can register as heroin. Large amounts of riboflavin (vitamin B-2) and perfectly legal (and incredibly healthy) hemp seed oil can register as marijuana.
Then of course there are many prescription drugs that can lead to a false positive. Amoxicillin, the antibiotic most prescribed for those allergic to penicillin, can show up as cocaine. Many asthma medications register as ecstasy or amphetamines. Even in the absence of these pharmaceuticals, some medical conditions can register a false positive. Kidney infection, liver disease, and diabetes can all lead to false positives for cocaine, ecstasy, opiates, or amphetamines.
Worst of all, you may fail a drug test through no fault of your own. A small fraction of people excrete larger amounts of certain enzymes in their urine that may produce a false positive. One researcher hypothesizes that the higher levels of melanin (the pigment producing cell) found in darker-skinned people may lead to positives for marijuana, because melanin and THC metabolites share a similar molecular structure.
For every false positive there is a person who has suffered the indignity of the accusation, the suspicion of family, co-workers, and friends, the threat of job loss or school suspension, and the burden of proving themselves innocent of a crime they did not commit. For every false negative there is the time, money, and effort wasted failing to discover someone who is actually using drugs.
But beyond the obvious futility and waste involved, there is one superseding argument against drug testing: it is un-American.
Our Founding Fathers laid out our basic liberties in the Bill of Rights. Drug testing violates at least two of our most sacred liberties.
Our 5th Amendment lays out two basic legal concepts: that we cannot be compelled to testify against ourselves and that we are innocent until proven guilty. Drug testing assumes that you are guilty until your body proves you to be innocent. Being compelled to provide urine, hair, saliva, or blood is a testimony against yourself. The Founders were clearly against compelling the citizenry toward self-incrimination; they had seen the results of tyrants using these techniques throughout history. It’s a shame our courts haven’t been as wise.
Our 4th Amendment is the basis for our right to privacy and freedom from government investigations and seizures without warrant and probable cause. Drug testing is certainly an invasion of privacy; it’s hard to imagine how a stranger watching you urinate isn’t an invasion of privacy. If there is no probable cause to believe you have committed a crime, there is no good reason to seize your bodily fluids.
Sadly, courts have decided that going to work or school is a voluntary activity, that you exchange some of your expectation to privacy in getting a job or an education, and that employers and educators are not the police or government. It’s hard for me to imagine how work or education is truly voluntary; I guess that homelessness and ignorance are a viable choice in their minds; a choice I think would lead to more drug abuse, not less.
For many people, there is no choice but to swallow their pride, surrender their rights, face the embarrassment, risk the false positive, and take the drug test. Almost half of all employers perform some sort of drug testing. The farther down the socio-economic scale, the more likely a worker will face a pre-employment drug test. Around 36% of financial, business, and professional services test their new hires, compared to more than three-fourths of manufacturing and more than 60% of wholesale, retail, and other services. Yet rates of illicit drug use remain fairly constant among all segments of society.
The cash-strapped schools are less likely to be testing for drugs. In 2003, some 19% of schools had drug testing for cause, only 5% tested student-athletes, and only 4% tested participants in all extra-curricular activities. But for the student at these schools, unlike the worker, attendance is compulsory and there aren’t many other options available. Their choices are to either avoid all extracurricular activities (which can be determining factors in college selection and future career) or suffer the same risks and indignities as their parents in the workforce.
Drug testing is but one of the many failures in our government’s war on casual drug users, and its failure to achieve its stated goals is one of the easiest to prove. Fortunately, many companies are coming to recognize this fact — rates of workplace and school drug testing have declined steadily since 1990. But there remains a federal government with a strong inclination toward abrogating the rights of citizens to look “tough on crime”, and many industries that stand to gain from increased drug testing.
Personally, I just try to imagine what possible argument could have convinced hemp farmers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington to pee in a cup in order to get a job.
My name is Les and I love finding the stash every day after work. I started listening to it – even all the old shows - after i lost my job at Trugreen (a ServiceMaster company) for smoking pot, even though i had a clean driving record, great customer reviews and the whole 9. Never did i burn at work or in a company vehicle, but rather mostly at home with my wife while unwinding for the evening…
Which got me to thinking… how many of the record 4.81 million people receiving unemployment benefits are unemployed or under-employed because of workplace drug metabolite testing?
In an economic crisis, we need as many people working and contributing to the economy as possible. To put people out of work and dependent on assistance during this crisis is foolish.
In the interest of rehabilitating this economy, we call on all private sector employers to do away with workplace drug metabolite testing, which serves primarily to disqualify responsible marijuana smokers from full employment. Metabolite testing disproportionately targets cannabis consumers as its metabolite (THC-COOH) remains detectable for days or weeks after the window for impairment has passed; therefore, most of the people fired for marijuana were probably not impaired on the job.
We do share the concern about workplace safety, free from the threat of drug-impaired workers; however, there are other methods that are fair and accurate that do not discriminate against the marijuana consumer. If a change in drug metabolite testing is unworkable, then we call for a change in workplace policy that allows responsible marijuana smokers who test positive for non-impairing, inactive metabolites of marijuana to keep their jobs, even if you feel some other disciplinary measures must be taken.
The last thing our country and economy needs right now are more unemployed marijuana smokers collecting a government check.
“You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
April 16, 1963
Today our nation honors what would’ve been this week the eightieth birthday of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., on the eve of the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th president of these United States. I was sixty-four days old when an assassin’s bullet cut down Dr. King in the prime of his life. Today I am six-hundred forty days older than Dr. King when he was killed. Tomorrow I will see something few people my age and older thought we’d ever see, yet something Dr. King had dreamed from the start.
There remains a grave injustice to be battled, the most unjust of laws to be disobeyed, a law that by its definition is not rooted in eternal law and natural law: the man made code that declares nature itself to be illegal, the prohibition on cannabis. Yet when I mention marijuana law reform in the context of the great civil rights struggles in America, so many are quick to dismiss me with snickers of derision. ”You just want pot legal so you can get high!” is a common refrain.
Marijuana law reform is a civil rights struggle. I will not attempt to equate this struggle to those of minorities, women, or gays and lesbians; however, there are some parallels among our fight and theirs and, indeed, some threads of drug law injustice are woven directly into the struggles of these groups. The prohibition of drugs was one of the tools of oppression – the “Negroes” for their cocaine, the “Chinamen” for their opium, and the Mexicans for their marihuana. It remains so today – while people use drugs at about the same rate regardless of race, African-Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately arrested, convicted, and serve longer sentences for drug use than white people.
Aside from the racist nature of the origins and applications, cannabis prohibition itself is an unjust law. First consider that it isn’t merely against the law to possess, cultivate, traffic, buy, and consume marijuana – it is against the law to be marijuana. Federal and state law enforcement spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours flying helicopters attempting to spot cannabis growing out in the wild. Ninety-eight percent of what is seized is known as “feral hemp”, which is wild ditchweed with unsmokably-low levels of THC. Officials rip up and destroy every plant they see whether it is owned or tended by any human, whether or not it could possibly intoxicate any human. Logically, then, the ultimate goal of marijuana prohibition is not to simply stop humans from using it for intoxication, but to eradicate the species cannabis sativa L. from the earth!
Think of that: our official policy is the extinction of a species of life. Certainly that’s not entirely new. We’re dedicated to the extinction of all manner of microscopic life, after all, but that is a justifiable policy for self-preservation – we kill bugs that kill us. I cannot think of another plant or animal we treat like cannabis. Deadly plants like nightshade and belladonna are legal, annoying plants like poison ivy and poison oak are legal, even intoxicating plants like coca and poppy are legal when cultivated for prescription medications. But the cannabis plant, the plant that cannot kill you is completely illegal*. The plant that can provide the food, clothing, shelter, and medicine humans need to survive is illegal. Nature itself is illegal. How much more contrary to eternal law and natural law could this unjust prohibition law be?
The fight against cannabis prohibition, against this unjust law, is a civil rights fight. This declaration will offend some people who will point to four centuries of slavery and Jim Crow, to lynchings and cross burnings, and to beatings and firehoses and condemn my declaration as making light of the plight of those who were truly oppressed. I do not make light of those struggles, but I also recognize that civil rights are not a zero sum game and the degree and manner in which one is being oppressed are not what make the fight against oppression a just one. Dr. King dreamed of a day when children would be judged by not by the color of their skin but the content of their character; I dream of a day when workers are judged not by the metabolites in their urine but the quality of their work.
Later in King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he writes:
Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. …
I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. …
The unjust law of marijuana prohibition is difference made legal. The majority compels our minority to forgo our intoxicant, but does not bind itself to forgo their intoxicant. The majority compels our minority forgo our medicine, but does not bind itself to forgo their medicine. The majority compels our minority to forgo their religious sacrament, but does not bind itself to forgo their religious sacrament. The majority compels our minority to forgo our source of food, fuel, and fiber, but does not bind itself to forgo their sources.
The majority may argue that they do not prohibit intoxication, medication, religious sacrament, or food, fuel, and fiber cultivation, so long as it doesn’t involve marijuana. This to me sounds like the argument against same-sex marriage rights, that gays and lesbians are just as free to marry someone of the opposite sex as everybody else. If we are given a right, but then proscribed from exercising that right in the manner that benefits us without a valid reason from the majority, it is not really a right. When intoxication, medication, and sacrament are legal rights, but we are proscribed from using a demonstrably safer intoxicant, medicine, and sacrament, that is difference made legal.
No, we do not face the firehoses and the dogs and the lynchings, nor do we suffer in as great of numbers as did the African Americans Dr. King so graciously led in the years before my birth. Our oppression is more subtle and codified into laws that restrict our housing, employment, and educational opportunities. We do not tremble in fear of the midnight ride of white-robed vigilante Klansmen; our terror comes in the form of midnight no-knock raids of body-armored SWAT teams.
Like the civil rights struggles of the past, we work to change laws that oppress people, laws that enjoy support from the majority and are rationalized by tradition, religion, and junk science. Unlike the civil rights struggles of the past, our constituency is an invisible group defined by lifestyle, not genetics. That choice to use cannabis should not disqualify our fight to be treated as equals under the law. After all, the choice to worship the God of your understanding is not genetic, it is a lifestyle choice as well, and our law recognizes that one cannot be discriminated against for that choice. In fact, it is a bit ironic that one’s choice of God, a belief that cannot be proven by science to beneficial, is a protected right, yet one’s choice of cannabis, a plant that can be proven by science to be beneficial, is a federal crime.
The freedom to worship, of course, is an explicit right recognized by our First Amendment, but its foundation is in the inalienable rights given to us by our Creator, among them being Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness. If that last one – the Pursuit of Happiness – doesn’t give me the right to smoke a joint so long as I don’t affect anyone else’s Life and Liberty, then the Constitution isn’t worth the hemp paper on which it was drafted.
Also from King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he writes:
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.
Today’s freedom fighters are the people like Eddy Lepp and Charles Lynch, providing aid and comfort to the sick and dying by growing and supplying them with medicine, only to face the rest of their natural lives behind bars because what they did was “illegal”.
Today’s “whites-only” establishments are the “drug-free” workplaces keep cannabis users confined to low-paying part-time or temp service jobs, while the rest of the workers are allowed all the alcohol, nicotine, and prescription medications they desire.
Today’s lynchings are the Rachel Hoffmans and Jonathan Magbies who are murdered by police negligence, solely over their use of cannabis. Today’s institutionalized discrimination is the over 20 million in my lifetime whose lives are marked with the scarlet letter of a drug conviction, affecting their child custody, government assistance, college financial aid, employment opportunities, professional licenses, voting rights, and liberty.
The prohibition of cannabis ultimately degrades human personality and is against moral law. It is an unjust law that cannot stand, and we have a moral responsibility to disobey it. In doing so, we express the highest respect for the law. On this day when we recognize the greatness of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream, and on tomorrow, when we see part of that dream fulfilled, remember that we don’t fight to “make pot legal so you can get high”; we fight because the Pursuit of Happiness is our right and caging us for our method of pursuit is unjust.
Smoking pot is our civil right!
Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King, Jr.
* I recognize that marijuana is legally grown at ElSohly’s lab at the University of Mississippi. But consider that marijuana’s two purposes – to supply five people grandfathered in to the IND program and to provide marijuana for studies to prove how awful marijuana is to justify its prohibition. In this metaphor it would be akin to saving a few vials of polio virus so you could use them to make vaccines.
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?