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Pot-Smoking Employee Need Not Be Accommodated

July 1, 2006
Robert Washburn worked as a millwright for Columbia Forest Products at its Klamath Falls, Oregon, plant. Washburn was a medical marijuana recipient who regularly used the drug before going to bed to counteract leg spasms that otherwise would keep him awake. Though he used the marijuana at home, CFP had a policy prohibiting workers from coming to the plant with controlled substances in their systems.

    Washburn was fired after failing several drug tests. He sued, claiming his leg condition left him legally disabled and, therefore, CFP had failed to reasonably accommodate him in violation of Oregon statutes.

    According to the Oregon Supreme Court, Washburn’s leg spasms did not rise to the level of a disability under Oregon law because his previous regular prescription medications had successfully treated his spasms. Furthermore, even if Washburn was disabled under state law, CFP was not obligated to reasonably accommodate his use of medical marijuana because its possession is prohibited by federal law. This was so despite his doctor approving him for Oregon’s medical marijuana program.

    Therefore, the court affirmed the dismissal of Washburn’s lawsuit in favor of CFP. Washburn v. Columbia Forest Prods. Inc., Or. Supr. Ct., No. S52254 (5/4/06).

    Impact: Employers are cautioned that the medical use of marijuana will continue to be a contentious issue affecting employment policies and practices so long as federal and state laws continue to conflict.

Workforce Management, June 26, 2006, p. 8 -- Subscribe Now!