Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Friday, April 16, 2010

Medical Marijuana: Accomodation Required? Which Way Do You Think Oregon Went?

Probably depends on how liberal you view Oregon. Since I have spent little time there (which will hopefully be somewhat ameliorated by a vacation week there in a couple of months) my guess is based more on perception than actual knowledge. If pushed, I would have guessed for a pro-employee outcome.

But I would have been wrong. In Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc. v. Bureau of Labor and Industries (Oregon 4/14/10), the Oregon Supreme Court dealt with it succinctly:
The Oregon Medical Marijuana Act authorizes persons holding a registry identification card to use marijuana for medical purposes. ORS 475.306(1). It also exempts those persons from state criminal liability for manufacturing, delivering, and possessing marijuana, provided that certain conditions are met. ORS 475.309(1). The Federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 USC ยง 801 et seq., prohibits the manufacture, distribution, dispensation, and possession of marijuana even when state law authorizes its use to treat medical conditions. Gonzales v. Raich, 545 US 1, 29, 125 S Ct 2195, 162 L Ed 2d 1 (2005); see United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, 532 US 483, 486, 121 S Ct 1711, 149 L Ed 2d 722 (2001) (holding that there is no medical necessity exception to the federal prohibition against manufacturing and distributing marijuana).
The question that this case poses is how those state and federal laws intersect in the context of an employment discrimination claim; specifically, employer argues that, because marijuana possession is unlawful under federal law, even when used for medical purposes, state law does not require an employer to accommodate an employee's use of marijuana to treat a disabling medical condition. ...We also hold that, under Oregon's employment discrimination laws, employer was not required to accommodate employee's use of medical marijuana. (emphasis added)(all interior cites removed)
It will be a long time before that question ever arises in Texas, but I have been surprised how many times it has come up for the employers that our firm represent in those states where some form of medical marijuana use is legal.

Given that legalization is on the ballot in California in November, see a summary of the proposal and get the actual text here,  this could become an even bigger issue.
Hat tip to the locals who called this to my attention, the folks at Stoel, Rives who not only posted about the result, Oregon Supreme Court: Employers Are Not Required to Accommodate Medical Marijuana, but filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Pacific Legal Foundation and the National Federation of Independent Business, and to  Ross Runkel, Professor of Law Emeritus at Willamette University College of Law (Salem, Oregon).


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