LEGAL ALERT: Supreme Court Decision – Medicinal Marijuana

Download: Ross v RagingWire (1011941).PDF

As promised during our 2007 Labor and Employment Law Year in Review, here is an update on the medicinal marijuana case decided yesterday by the California Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire. In addition to the Key Points of the Ross decision below, we have attached the opinion in its entirety.

Key Points

  • Ross v. RagingWire- California Supreme Court (January 24, 2008)
  • ISSUE: Must an employer retain an employee who fails a mandatory post offer/pre-employment drug test because of medical marijuana use?
  • HOLDING: No. Neither the medicinal marijuana laws nor FEHA create an obligation in employers to accommodate the use of illicit substances.
  • While California’s Compassionate Use Act eliminates California criminal liability for medicinal marijuana use, marijuana is still an illegal substance under Federal law. As such, the Court viewed marijuana as an illegal substance for the purposes of its analysis.
  • In response to plaintiff’s disability discrimination claims, the Court held that the use of illegal drugs is not covered by California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
  • “[N]othing in the text or history of the Compassionate Use Act suggests the voters intended the measure to address the respective rights and obligations of employers and employees.”
  • In response to plaintiff’s second claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, the Court again reasoned that the Compassionate Use Act does not contemplate the employer-employee relationship. As such, no “public policy” was violated by RagingWire.
  • Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco announced he would introduce legislation protecting medical cannabis patients’ right to employment. “The people of California did not intend that patients be unemployed in order to use medical marijuana.”

If you have any questions about this decision, California drug testing laws, or any other Labor and Employment Law issues, please contact our Labor and Employment law team at the numbers below.

Chuck Post – (916) 558-6035
Beth West – (916) 558-6082
Anthony B. Daye – (916) 558-6038