Medical Marijuana Employment Bill Announced at CalNORML Conference
January 31 - Before hundreds of attendees at the California NORML statewide "Next Steps" conference on Saturday, January 29, Senator Mark Leno (SF) announced he has re-introduced his bill to end employment discrimination against medical marijuana users. SB 129, The Medical Cannabis Patient Employment Non-Discrimination Bill would declare it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person because of their status as a qualified patient or a positive drug test for marijuana, except for safety-sensitive positions and certain health-care workers. Employers would retain the right to take action against employees who were impaired on the job.
"A medical cannabis patient has the right to employment in California," Leno said. "Voters did not intend the medical marijuana law to benefit only unemployed people. We want people employed." He asked the crowd if any had experienced employment discrimination or knew someone who had, and a great many hands went up.
Drug tests "don't address the issue at hand, which is impairment," said Leno. "There are impairment tests which are cheaper and better for employers and employees."
Leno announced he would also re-introduce his industrial hemp bill, possibly with Republican co-authorship. He predicted a $200-300 million industry in industrial hemp. "Our new governor is thoughtful and will understand the benefit to California" of Leno's proposals, he predicted.
Leno was awarded a CalNORML "Friend of Freedom" award for SB1449, his 2010 bill that reduced the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction. "I'm a great champion of the reasonable" Leno joked upon accepting the award.
Also speaking at the conference was Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, who announced he would re-introduce his full marijuana legalization bill. Ammiano was also awarded by CalNORML for taking this bold step in 2009.
Other public officials taking part on conference panels were Mendocino Supervisor John McCowan and Oakland City Councilwoman Delsey Brooks. It gathered representatives of various reform groups along with patients and advocates of medical marijuana and full legalization. See conference schedule. See recordings of the conference.
Also see: Marijuana advocates debate a new legalization effort, LA Times