Feb 24, 00
San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Associated Press
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OREGON AGENCY TO ALLOW OFF-DUTY MEDICAL MARIJUANA USE HILLSBORO, Ore. - The Tualatin Valley Water District may be the first public agency in Oregon that has agreed to allow its employees use medical marijuana. The policy comes with several restrictions: Employees must have a medical marijuana card, they can't smoke on the job, and the district's 30 employees with federally issued commercial driver's licenses can't smoke at all, because federal law still regards marijuana as a controlled illegal drug. The law permits people to use marijuana for a variety of conditions, not just terminal illnesses, including problems such as nausea that don't keep them from doing their work. However, under Oregon's law, employers can refuse to accommodate medical marijuana use by employees. None of the water district's 85 employees uses medically prescribed marijuana. The decision to rewrite its substance abuse policy is another sign that the medical marijuana law, passed by Oregon voters in November 1998, is forcing businesses across the state to re-examine their attitudes toward the drug, The Oregonian reported. Other agencies, such as Multnomah County and the city of Portland, are taking a wait-and-see attitude. But the law already is raising questions for people such as Portland resident Larry Humphrey, who lost his job at a trucking company after he tested positive for marijuana he uses legally. Since May, the Health Division has issued more than 400 marijuana-use cards to patients suffering from extreme pain and debilitating diseases. The Health Division considering expanding the law to apply to conditions such as anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. The water district's board of commissioners voted unanimously last month to allow medical marijuana to bring the company's policy in line with the new state law. The district's human resources director suggested the district address the issue before an employee raised it. "We're just being proactive," said Greg DiLoreto, the district's general manager. "All employers in Oregon will be faced with it. There's no precedent; we're setting the standard here. If you step back from it being marijuana, all you're dealing with is a prescription drug, and employees will need to notify their supervisor if they're using it." Larry Humphrey thinks the water district might be a better place to work than his last job. A medical marijuana cardholder who smokes to relieve arthritic pain, Humphrey lost his delivery job with the trucking company Link Logistics in November after he tested positive for marijuana. "I'm lost," said Humphrey, who does not have a commercial driver's license and therefore does not fall under federal law. "I'm not sure how to make out a legal, trustful resume. Nobody's going to hire me if I do."