Imagine this: One of your employees is on pain medication that could compromise his safety and productivity, as well as that of co-workers. But, because of state law, you have to accommodate the employee. Not only that, but federal law says the pain medication is illegal.
What medication are we talking about? Marijuana.
That’s the case in Oregon, and a business lobbying group is pushing a bill to exempt employers from having to accommodate medical marijuana patients.
House Bill 2497 would allow businesses to terminate employees who test positive for marijuana, even if they are legally authorized to use it for pain management.
Employers would also be notified when a worker applies for a “marijuana card,” under the measure.
Associated Oregon Industries (AOI) sees medical cannabis as a liability for employers.
AOI’s vice-president for government affairs, J.L. Wilson, told The World that many employers have horror stories about employing medical marijuana users and impairment on the job.
Wilson notes that marijuana remains federally illegal, but in Oregon, employers are forced to accommodate those who have been approved to use it for pain.
Wayne Haythorn with Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse says the bill is designed to stir up fear and punish people who need marijuana for pain.
In what situations do doctors approve pot use for pain?
One example: Jude Isaacson had back surgery in 2000 and developed a spinal infection. She was using a wheelchair.
“Cannabis has brought me back,” she said. “I can focus now.”
Dr. Michelle Petrofes who treats six medical marijuana patients says pot isn’t her first line of treatment by any means. She said patients have to have tried every other medication first for pain before she will consider marijuana.
Pain management expert Dr. Daniel Rusu says most patients who request cannabis for pain management don’t qualify for it.
He also believes this battle over marijuana will continue.
How can employers balance compassion for workers in severe pain with their employee drug policies? What do you think is the right course of action? And readers from Oregon, let’s hear from you, especially. You can leave comments in the box below.