Pot smoker seeks workplace shield

When his new boss at Ragingwire Inc. ordered Gary Ross to take a drug test, the recently hired computer tech had no doubt the results would come back positive for marijuana.

But along with his urine sample, Ross submitted a doctor’s recommendation that he smoked pot to alleviate back pain — a document he figured would save him from being fired. It didn’t, however, and Ross was let go eight days into his tenure because the company said federal law makes marijuana illegal no matter the use.

Today, the California Supreme Court is due to hear Ross’ case, the latest example of the intensifying clash between federal and local authorities over marijuana use.

Ross, 45, contends thatRagingwire, a small telecommunications company in Sacramento, discriminated against him because of a back injury and violated the state’s fair-employment law by punishing him for legally smoking marijuana at home.

He says he and others using medical marijuana should receive the same workplace protection from discipline that employees with valid painkiller prescriptions do. California voters legalized medicinal marijuana in 1996.

Eleven other states, including Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state, have adopted similar laws and many are now grappling with the same sticky, workplace issues over drug use by employees smoking medicinal marijuana approved by doctors.

The nonprofit marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, which is representing Ross, estimates that 300,000 Americans use medical marijuana. The Oakland-based group said it has received hundreds of employee discrimination complaints in California since it first began tracking the issue in 2005.

Ross, who lives in Sacramento, said he permanently injured his back in 1983 while serving as a U.S. Air Force mechanic. He said it wasn’t until 1999 that he found true pain relief with marijuana.

Two lower courts have sided with Ragingwire’s decision to fire Ross because federal law holds that marijuana is illegal in all guises.

Five current and former Democratic state legislators argue that the lower courts misinterpreted a law they helped pass that banned smoking of medicinal marijuana at the workplace. The lawmakers said nothing in their law prevents employees with medical marijuana cards to smoke outside the workplace.

Ragingwire has been joined in the Supreme Court by powerful corporate interests such as the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and the Western Electrical Contractors Association Inc., who said companies couldlose federal contracts and grants if they allowed employees to smoke pot.

— AP

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

In his extensive filming of The City during the pandemic, Eric Goodfield said he has been “observing how the environment affects the behavior of people.” (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Filmmaker Eric Goodfield fixes lens on SF’s COVID days

140 days of shooting in The City made for ‘greatest adventure’

Most Read