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What does medical marijuana mean for Oregon employers?

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF KATELYN BLACK - Jars of medicinal marijuana at Pure Green,  a Medical Marijuana dispensary in Portland.This year, Oregon joined 19 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries; Colorado and neighboring Washington went a step further, permitting the sale of recreational pot.

However, so far, there isn’t a way to shield patients from the consequences of random drug testing at work, even if they are using the drug off the clock.

Many companies require a drug test before hiring and warn new hires of random drug tests during employment.

According to a recent USA Today article, employers in any state that permits marijuana dispensaries do not have to bend or break their drug policies to accommodate legal pot use.

Colorado adopted a law that says employees can’t be fired for legal activities after work, only to have the courts rule that marijuana use isn’t lawful because the federal government still considers it illegal. And in Washington, USA Today reports, lawmakers have yet to take any action on the matter.

The most recent ruling I found in Oregon happened in 2010 — a Eugene man filed a claim with the Bureau of Labor and Industries after he was fired in 2003.

The Oregonian reported that Anthony Scevers had been prescribed medical marijuana due to a history of anxiety and panic attacks. He told his employer, Emerald Steel Fabricators Inc., that he used marijuana under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program in lieu of a drug test. A week later, he was let go.

Bureau of Labor and Industries investigators later ruled Scevers’ medical condition a disability and ordered the company to pay $45,000. The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the decision, but the Oregon Supreme Court sided with federal law.

It makes me wonder, what will happen now that medical marijuana dispensaries are popping up all over the state? Will employers lay off drug testing if they know an employee is a medical marijuana patient? Will disclosing marijuana use affect hiring decisions, should a potential hire refuse a drug test?