High court ruling on medical pot won't provide enough answers

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Congress needs to address the various concerns. Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court is set to rule on whether those using medical marijuana can be fired.

More than a dozen years ago Washington voters approved a law making it legal for people to use marijuana for medical purposes.

Yet, despite the passage of the ballot measure, the law on marijuana seems to be languishing in a legal limbo. When is using it legal and when is it not? Usually, it depends on circumstances.

And that doesn't give folks who truly need marijuana for medical purposes much comfort.

The latest issue regarding medical marijuana is whether workers who have been authorized by a doctor to use the drug for medical reasons can be fired for violating their employers' policy prohibiting marijuana use.

The state Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case that could determine if using legal marijuana can be grounds of termination. In the case, a woman was let go from a Bremerton call center in 2006 because she failed a drug test given to all new employees. She used the marijuana to treat her migraine headaches and had a valid authorization from a physician to do so.

The woman's former employer, Teletech Customer Care, offered no evidence that the use of marijuana impaired her ability to work.

Frankly, they didn't need to. The voter-approved measure is focused more on law enforcement than employment. That's what happens when laws are crafted by citizens rather than a legislative body where all facets of a proposal are scrutinized and debated.

Courts in other states, including Oregon, have ruled in similar cases businesses have great leeway to fire.

This, however, does not mean the woman should have been fired. If she didn't pose a danger to herself or others, and use of the medication didn't impair her ability to do her job, her employer should have made an effort to make this situation work.

Employers have to be careful not to open themselves up to lawsuits. Ultimately, employers should have the final say under the current law with workplace safety being the focus.

But whatever direction the state Supreme Court goes will not settle this tricky issue. It is best addressed by Congress and federal agencies. A uniform law is needed that applies to all states. The current patchwork of state-by-state laws approved by voters isn't working.

We continue to believe medical marijuana should be treated the same as any prescription medication. If the drug has side effects that put workers at greater risk of injury or death, workers should be reassigned to a safer job while on that medication.



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