CA Employers Not Required to Hire Medicinal Pot Users

September 9, 2005 ( - A recently approved California statewide ballot initiate may have cleared the way for citizens to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, but that doesn't mean employers have to accommodate on the job marijuana use.

That was the bottom line of a California appellate court ruling that upheld a decision by a Sacramento company to fire plaintiff Gary Ross, according to a Metropolitan News-Enterprise report.

The Third District Court of Appeals turned aside claims by Ross that the refusal by Ragingwire Telecommunications, where he worked as a systems administrator, to accommodate his marijuana usage represented discrimination against the disabled employee and was a violation of public policy. The Golden State’s Proposition 215 cleared marijuana use under doctor’s orders. Ross claimed he needed the marijuana as a treatment for lower back pain and muscle spasms.

“Because the possession and use of marijuana is illegal under federal law, a court has no legitimate authority to require an employer to accommodate an employee’s use of marijuana, even if it is for medicinal purposes and thus legal under California law,” Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland wrote. “If (California housing law) is to be extended to compel such an accommodation, that is a public policy decision that must be made by the Legislature, or by the electorate via initiative, and not by the courts.”

According to court background, Ross was fired eight days after starting work as a result of his positive test for THC, the main chemical found in marijuana. The company said it would consult with Ross’ physician before making a final decision on his employment, but went ahead and fired him.

In his lawsuit challenging the firing, Ross claimed he had to use the marijuana because other treatments didn’t help and that neither the back problems nor the marijuana affected his ability to do his job.

However, Ragingwire argued that marijuana is a controlled substance that Ross cannot use under federal law, and nothing in Proposition 215 requires employers to retain employees who use the drug.  Sacramento Superior Court Judge Joe Gray agreed and dismissed the suit and the appellate court signed on as well.

Proposition 215, the appellate panel explained, “simply permits a person to use marijuana for medicinal purposes in our state without incurring state criminal law sanctions” and “says nothing about protecting the employment rights of those who do so.”

The ruling in Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, Inc., 05 S.O.S. 4364, is  here .