Pothead Discrimination Bill Up for Sac-Town Debate

Do you smoke weed?

Do you have a doctor's note allowing you to smoke medical marijuana?

Have you been fired, terminated, or otherwise discriminated against?

Do you live in California?

If you answered yes to those four questions, you may qualify for being interested in the fact that tomorrow morning, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will be mulling over your present dilemma during a public hearing in Sacramento.

Apparently there are still employers out here who think they can fire employees who are found to be smoking marijuana off-duty, even if said smokers are medical marijuana patients. Thanks to pesky drug tests and the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, folks can lose their jobs over their state-sanctioned weekend inhalation habits.

So, on Jan. 27, to rectify this problem, Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), introduced SB 129, the so-called Medical Marijuana Anti-Discrimination Bill. If passed, it would prohibit employers from weeding their workforces of weed-smokers. Specifically, it would "declare it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based on the person's status as a qualified patient or a positive drug test for marijuana, except as specified," according to the official language of the bill, which you can find here.

While the bill would also allow anyone who does suffer such consequences the right to file a civil lawsuit, it doesn't apply to everyone, as the "except as specified" clause implies. "The bill would not prohibit an employer from terminating the employment of, or taking other corrective action against, an employee who is impaired on the property or premises of the place of employment, or during the hours of employment, because of the medical use of marijuana."

It's still too early to tell how far this legislation will make it in Sacramento. Leno introduced a bill last year to reduce the penalty for minor possession of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction, and that's already been signed by the governer, so stranger things have happened. Meanwhile, it does seem wise that the language expressly negates any criticism to the effect that forklift operators, airline pilots, or god forbid, police officers, will start toking up on the job, thinking they can cash in on a discrimination suit if they happen to get caught and fired.


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