California Medical Marijuana Employment
Rights Bill Advances
Legislation Moves to Assembly with Committee Approvals, Union
An ASA-sponsored bill that would establish employment rights for
medical marijuana patients in California advanced through the state
Assembly last month. With support from three unions representing nearly
1 million workers in California, AB 2279 passed through both the
Assembly’s Labor and Employment and Judiciary committees on party-line
votes. The bill will be voted on next by the Assembly, before passing to
the state senate and then the governor’s desk.
The new employment rights bill prohibits discrimination against
patients but leaves intact existing state law prohibiting medical
marijuana consumption at the workplace and protects employers from
liability by allowing exceptions for jobs where physical safety could be
California joins Oregon and Hawaii in considering laws to protect
medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination.
Chief Counsel Joe Elford
"We’re grateful for the support of the state legislature in
preserving the rights of patients to work and be productive members of
society," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "With the jobs of thousands
of sick Californians hanging in the balance, we are hopeful that the
full Assembly will act in similar fashion to the Labor and Judiciary
ASA lobbying for the bill helped garner the endorsement last month of
the statewide California Labor Federation, Service Employees
International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County
and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), all powerful unions whose voices in
defense of workers are listened to in California’s capital. ASA also
secured support from the National Lawyers Guild and several HIV/AIDS
Introduced in February by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored
by ASA, AB 2279 is designed to rectify a January ruling by the
California Supreme Court that found employers can fire patients for
using medical marijuana, even when they are entitled to do so under
state law. That landmark case, Ross v. RagingWire, was argued before the
supreme court by ASA’s Elford.
speaking to the media
Assemblymember Leno and the other authors of California’s Medical
Marijuana Program Act (SB 420) had filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief
in support of Gary Ross, the engineer who lost his job at RagingWire
Telecommunications in 2001 after failing a drug test. Ross had told his
employer that he used medical cannabis on his doctor’s advice to treat
injuries sustained during his military service, but RagingWire
terminated him anyway.
The legislation that would reverse the Ross decision has moved
quickly because Assemblymember Leno and ASA were prepared for an adverse
ruling by the court, having begun drafting the bill last year. In
addition to Assemblymember Leno, the bill’s co-authors are Patty Berg
(D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego).
More about the bill can be seen at www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/AB2279.
ASA has received hundreds of reports of employment discrimination in
California since 2005. Employers that have been accused of
discriminating against patients include Costco Wholesale, UPS, Foster
Farms Dairy, DirecTV, the San Joaquin Courier, Power Auto Group, as well
as several construction companies, hospitals, and various trade union
New Patient Bill in Congress
In other legislative news, a new bill to protect medical marijuana
patients is also being considered in Washington, DC.
Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the "Medical Marijuana
Patient Protection Act," HR 5842 last month. The act would change
federal policy on medical marijuana in a number of ways.
It would reclassify marijuana to make it available by prescription
and create a regulatory framework for the FDA to begin a drug approval
process for marijuana. The act would also prevent interference by the
federal government in any local or state run medical marijuana program.
The bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY),
Sam Farr (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Ron Paul (R-TX).
Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics a
Last month, several of ASA’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board
members – including Philippe Lucas, Rick Doblin, Ph.D, Robert Melameade,
Ph.D, and Jahan Marcu. – were among the experts, researchers and
physicians presenting at the Fifth National Clinical Conference on
Cannabis Therapeutics, hosted by national non-profit group Patients Out
of Time at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California.
ASA had a booth at the conference and made contact with researchers,
doctors and activists from across the country and the world. ASA staff
was joined by members, chapters, and affiliates from all over the
country, including representatives from California, Hawaii, Maryland,
Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
While there, ASA
Field coordinator Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard and Carson Higby-Flowers filmed
several testimonials of patients and researchers that are being posted
on ASA’s blog and YouTube.
Highlights from the conference,include Dr. Donald Tashkin’s
presentation of various research that demonstate even long-term heavy
cannabis smoking does not increase cancer risk and Dr. Steve Hosea’s
talk about the need for "evidence-based" medical cannabis research to
underscore our efforts to educate lawmakers and physicians.
Chris Conrad discussed the problems with current cannabis cultivation
limits, noting that even California law does not allow patients to
produce amounts established by the federal IND program.
Dr. Arno Hazekamp talked about why cannabis tea is one of the two
recommended methods of medicinal cannabis consumption by the Dutch
government. Dr. Natalya Kogan from Hebrew University in Jerusalem
presented information on the potential of CBD, one of the cannabinoids
in marijuana, for protecting against an array of conditions from
diabetes to Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Mark Ware from McGill University in Canada shared his findings
from a placebo-controlled clinical trial that showed the effectiveness
of higher-potency cannabis in reducing neuropathic pain and increasing
quality of sleep.
Dr. Donald Abrams of San Francisco General Hospital and UCSF medical
school discussed why cannabis should be part of palliative care and pain
Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos presented an overview of cannabinoid research
on movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. And ASA
Medical Advisory Board member Rick Doblin, PhD discussed the struggle to
end the federal government’s monopoly on the supply of cannabis
available for research as a means to expand therapeutic research in this
ASA Chapter Update: New Jersey
by Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
One of the many active local ASA chapters and affiliates working to
defend patients and their caregivers is the Coalition for Medical
Marijuana – New Jersey (CMMNJ).
For the past several months, the CMMNJ has been trying to capitalize
on the American College of Physicians’ January 2008 position paper
supporting medical marijuana. Members of CMMNJ have written press
releases, letters and OPEDs and sent them to such organizations as the
American Medical Association and the New Jersey Medical Society, as well
as media outlets – all highlighting this important endorsement of
medical marijuana. CMMNJ is using the endorsement of physicians and
scientists to keep the issue current in New Jersey and gain national
support for rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a more
To stay abreast of the latest research advances, CMMNJ members Ken
Wolski and Jim Miller attended the group’s Fifth National Clinical
Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics last month. The conference brought
some of the leading researchers from across the country and around the
world together with medical marijuana patients and advocates. Both Ken
and Jim are on the Advisory Board of the sponsoring organization,
Patients Out of Time.
CMMNJ is also working with NORML and Drug
Policy Alliance to urge citizens to tell NJ legislators to support the
"NJ Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" (S-119 & A-804).
As part of educating the public, CMMNJ members are making their
voices heard in the media. Jim Miller had two letters to the editor
published in the Asbury Park Press recently. Ken’s letter "Smoke Screen
to Marijuana Therapy" was published in the Times of Trenton, and Scott
Ward’s article, "For an MS patient, this drug makes all the difference,"
was published by the Newark Star Ledger.
CMMNJ also participated in this year’s Drug Peace March in
Philadelphia on May 3 in conjunction with PhillyNORML. CMMNJ continues
to have monthly public meetings at the Mercer County Library in Lawrence
Township, NJ on the second Tuesday of each month, from 7 to 9 pm.
To enhance its fundraising, CMMNJ has obtained designation as a
501(c)(3) organization by the IRS, so contributions to the group are now
income tax deductible. CMMNJ plans to send a letter to supporters as a
fundraiser and is also continuing to seek grant money to supplement
merchandise sales (t-shirts, wristbands, lapel pins and DVDs).
special fund-raising event to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the
death of Jim Miller’s wife Cheryl will be held June 7 at a location in
Ocean County, NJ from 2 to 6pm.
To find out more about CMMNJ, see their profile on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502598656.