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Leno floats medical-marijuana employment bill

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco — along with several co-authors including Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley — has introduced a bill to protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of California medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination.

Leno had vowed to push such a bill after the state Supreme Court ruled 5-2 last month that an employer can fire someone solely because they use medical marijauna outside the workplace.

The new bill, AB 2279, leaves intact existing state law prohibiting medical marijuana consumption in the workplace and protects employers from liability by carving out an exception for safety-sensitive positions.

leno.jpg“Long ago, the legislature prohibited patient use of medical cannabis in the workplace or during working hours,” Leno said in a news release. “AB 2279 is merely an affirmation of the intent of the voters and the legislature that medical marijuana patients need not be unemployed to benefit from their medicine.”

Oregon and Hawaii have introduced similar legislation. California’s is sponsored by Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, a national nonprofit which had argued the plaintiff’s case to the state Supreme Court.

“We welcome and strongly endorse this clarification from the legislature,” ASA spokesman Kris Hermes said in a news release. “Despite the ill-conceived ruling by the California Supreme Court, the intent of state legislatures has been to recognize the civil rights of patients and to offer them reasonable protections.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.