ACT NOW FOR CALIFORNIANS' RIGHTS TO EMPLOYMENT AND CULTIVATION

January 10, 2012 - Californians have a chance to make two strides for human rights in the coming weeks in Sacramento. Two important bills before the legislature must be voted on this month: SB129 (Leno) would grant employment rights to medical marijuana users, and AB1017 (Ammiano) would reduce penalties on marijuana cultivation.

Many are unaware that the California Supreme Court has ruled that employers may fire anyone who fails a drug test, even legal medical marijuana patients. Sadly, many find this out only after they’ve lost their jobs. California NORML regularly receives calls from frantic workers in danger of job loss. In recent weeks we have heard from a manager at an electronics store, a bottler at a beer factory, and others who have been unfairly deemed unfit for work because they use marijuana medicinally.

Ironically, many tell us that it’s marijuana that enables them to be productive workers, by managing their pain without opiates, or allowing them to sleep, or staving off migraine headaches. But unless they can stomach pharmaceutical medications for their ailments, they’re out of luck when it comes to the job market.

This situation persists despite the fact that urine testing programs have been shown in study after study not to improve workplace safety. Alternatives like impairment testing are starting to gain ground, as trucking companies and others are looking for better and more immediate ways to reduce their accident rate. One company even markets their Alertometer as an iPhone app.

Under SB129, employers would retain the right to take action against employees who were impaired on the job. Those in safety-sensitive positions and certain health-care workers could still be drug tested. “I’m a fierce champion of the reasonable,” joked Sen. Mark Leno when he announced the bill at a CalNORML conference last year, adding, “I don’t think the voters of California, when they passed Prop. 215, intended it to only benefit unemployed people.”

The vote on SB129 will happen before January 20, possibly the week of January 16. Write your state senator today in support of this bill.

Rep. Tom Ammiano’s Assembly Bill 1017 would allow prosecutors and courts the discretion of treating marijuana cultivation as a misdemeanor offense, avoiding costly felony charges against small-scale home growers and medical marijuana patients.

The bill is co-sponsored by Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster, who argues that it will save taxpayers money by avoiding unnecessary enforcement expenses in minor marijuana cases. The number of felony cultivation prosecutions has increased in recent years, costing the state tens of millions of dollars.

In testimony to the legislature, California NORML argued, "It makes no sense to punish responsible adults more harshly for growing their own marijuana at home than getting it from black market smugglers. Many medical marijuana patients end up with felony cases for growing gardens that they had grounds to believe were legal under Prop. 215. Patients should not risk felony prosecution just because of simple misunderstandings of current law." This cost-saving measure from the chair of the Assembly Public Safety committee should be a slam dunk for our cash-strapped state.

AB1017 will be voted on before January 27. Urge your state assembly member to support AB 1017

Recent polling shows that California voters favor both employment rights and reduced penalties for cultivation, and they’re right. Apart from the obvious human rights issues and wasted money spent on law enforcement for petty crimes, it’s bad policy to marginalize a segment of the population as unemployable or felonious. Not only does it encourage the kind of illegal behavior the laws would like to prevent, but it robs the workforce of some of its most creative and productive participants. In fact, a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that the mental function and memory of nearly 9,000 British men at age 50 was the same or higher among those who admitted to using marijuana or other illicit drugs moderately.

Readers can get informed and take action on these bills by visiting www.CaNORML.org