Kevin Murphy

Volume 73, Issue 5, 1563-1592

California law allows an employer to refuse to hire an applicant or discharge an employee for consuming medical cannabis in order to treat a serious medical condition, even if an individual consumes cannabis at home during non-working hours.

For example, in 2001, employer RagingWire Telecommunications fired its newly hired employee—Gary Ross, a United States Veteran who sustained injuries while serving his country—for using medical cannabis at home during non-working hours to relieve the pain those injuries caused. Mr. Ross challenged his termination, and the California Supreme Court sided with RagingWire, finding that California’s Compassionate Use Act did not protect medical cannabis patients from termination by their employers.

In contrast to California’s lack of protection for medical cannabis patients, sixteen states provide some form of statutory protection for individuals like Mr. Ross. In order to protect employees, the California Legislature must enact legislation prohibiting employers from discriminating against qualified patients under California’s Compassionate Use Act.

Enacting legislation to protect medical cannabis patients will restore California’s place as a leader in the cannabis arena. More importantly, it will protect medical cannabis patients like Mr. Ross, who—without such legislation—will continue to have to make the impossible choice of choosing between treating their disabilities and keeping their job.