SW Legal studies in Business

Medical Dope Smoking Need Not Be Tolerated by California Employers

California high court held that the legality of marijuana use for medical purposes only applied to state criminal matters; it did not require employers to allow disabled employees to use marijuana as an accommodation.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Medicinal Marijuana; Disability; Drug Test; Public Policy

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Ross suffers from pain related to injuries suffered while in the Air Force. He receives benefits for disability. His physician recommended he use marijuana to reduce pain, as allowed in California under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. As part of a pre-employment physical he took a drug test. Despite providing a copy of his physician’s recommendation, he was fired soon after he had been hired because he failed the drug test. Ross sued, contending the employer violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) that requires reasonable accommodation for disabilities. He also claimed the dismissal violated public policy due to the Compassionate Use Act. The trial and appeals courts held for the employer. Ross appealed.


Affirmed. The disability discrimination provisions of the FEHA do not require an employer to accommodate employees who use medical marijuana under a physician’s recommendation. The Compassionate Use Act provides a defense in state criminal prosecutions, but is not intended to eliminate an employer’s interest in whether employees used drugs banned by federal law. State law does not legalize marijuana; it is illegal under federal law even for medical users; the California law is limited in application.

Citation Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, Inc., ---Cal.Rptr.3d--- (2008 WL 191216, Sup. Ct., Calif., 2008)

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