New law won’t protect marijuana smokers at drug-free work places
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Pot party to focus on education
There’s a party Thursday evening to celebrate the state’s new marijuana law but don’t bring your cannabis.
To do so, would “open a big old can of worms,” said Pam Woodard, one of the organizers.
“It’s still illegal to smoke in a public display, there is no legal outlet to get marijuana and anyone who may attempt to step outside and light up would be doing so at their own risk.”
Instead, the party will offer food, non-alcoholic beverages and lots of educational materials.
“One thing I’ve noticed in the Wenatchee Valley is an extreme lack of education on the part of the public about cannabis in general, medical cannabis law and now Initiative 502,” she said. “I’ve already heard people in the cannabis community saying, ‘We can now share our medical cannabis with people who are 21 and older’ and that’s a really scary thing to hear because you’re going to get yourself in trouble.”
Woodard said the law does not make it legal to sell marijuana and it’s up in the air whether people can legally share their marijuana.
The party will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel, 1225 N. Wenatchee Ave. it is sponsored by Woodard’s two businesses, The Urban Garden and Best Peace of Glass, along with Apple Capital Medical Cannabis and Wenatchee Valley Holistic Medical Cannabis.
— Dee Riggs, World staff
WENATCHEE — A state law that goes into effect Thursday makes it legal for adults to possess one ounce or less of marijuana, but beware the impact on your job.
Attorneys who specialize in employment law are recommending that their clients keep policies in effect that emphasize drug-free work places.
“The biggest surprise to those who supported this initiative is that you can still smoke marijuana at home in privacy and still potentially get fired,” said Wenatchee attorney Ernest Radillo.
He says he tells business owners that “marijuana affects people differently, according to usage and body size, and you don’t want to implement a policy that falls into a gray area because you would be exposing yourself to liability.”
Wenatchee attorney Gil Sparks said he has been fielding “a dozen calls a week” from business owners wondering if their drug-testing policies still stand.
“In terms of employment, nothing has really changed,” Sparks said. “If they have a drug-free work place, and they want to prohibit employees from using marijuana, they can do so.”
The attorneys note that federal law still considers any amount of marijuana illegal. This means that organizations that receive on federal funds must keep drug-free policies in place or face the loss of those funds.
A quick survey of local businesses and governmental entities shows that employers are not changing their drug policies to accommodate marijuana users.
“As a medical facility, we feel employees should not be impaired by drugs or alcohol while at work,” said Steph Grubich, a spokeswoman for the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center.
She said the medical center requires a drug-free, pre-employment screening and employees can be tested if officials suspect they may be impaired.
Also not changing drug-free work place rules are Alcoa, the city of Wenatchee, the Chelan County PUD and Central Washington Hospital.
And if you’re considering a career in law enforcement, marijuana use is going to make that difficult. The State Patrol, for example, won’t accept you as a trooper if you’ve used marijuana in the past three years or more than 15 times in your life, said Trooper Darren Wright. They’ll check for lying, too, with a polygraph test.
And, if you’ve used the drug in the recent past, a pre-employment drug test will make you ineligible.
“We will not reduce our standards for drug use just because it’s legal now,” Wright said.
Dee Riggs: 664-7147
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