If Someone Shows Up To Work Stoned…You Fire Them

One of the main driving causes behind the century-long movement to ban alcohol was the claim that Prohibition was necessary so that workers wouldn’t show up drunk and cause accidents, waste time, or maim or kill themselves.

Yet after the failed experiment with Prohibition in the 1920s, it became clear that there were better ways to ensure sober employees – like firing them if they showed up drunk. And since Prohibition was repealed in 1933, American workplaces seem to have gotten along just fine without legal alcohol destroying economic productivity (even at Sterling Cooper).

So it’s rather bizarre to read the latest nonsense from the right-wing extremists at the California Chamber of Commerce, who argue that Prop 19 – the initiative to tax and regulate cannabis – would undermine efforts to create a drug-free workplace. From the LA Times:

The California Chamber of Commerce and other groups representing employers are starting to line up to oppose the initiative to legalize marijuana, charging that Proposition 19 would allow pot smokers to light up on the job and operate dangerous equipment while stoned.

Stepping up the campaign on Thursday, the chamber released a five-page analysis that starts: “Imagine a workplace where employees show up to work high on marijuana and there is nothing you can do about it.”…

The initiative’s proponents dismissed those claims. “It’s a lie that’s designed to raise money from California employers and other hot-button organizations,” said Dan Rush, a union official working for the campaign.

Rush’s comments have support from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which concluded in an analysis last month that Prop 19 would not undermine businesses’ ability to fire workers for being stoned on the job:

State and local law enforcement agencies could not seize or destroy marijuana from persons in compliance with the measure. In addition, the measure states that no individual could be punished, fined, or discriminated against for engaging in any conduct permitted by the measure. However, it does specify that employers would retain existing rights to address consumption of marijuana that impairs an employee’s job performance.

This all seems pretty clear: someone who grew or used pot at home would be protected from workplace retaliation – unless it impacted their job performance. So if you show up stoned, yes, you can get fired, which is in direct contradiction of the lie spread by the Cal Chamber.

As we learned in the 1920s, one can maintain a sober and safe workplace without resorting to Prohibition. The same thing can happen here in California in the 2010s. The Cal Chamber may want to be able to have total control over the lives of its employees, but that’s neither right nor necessary. Prop 19 is a sensible way to end the failed policy of prohibition, and it should be supported by California voters – who will hopefully reject the lies being spread by the right-wing Chamber.

UPDATE: The SacBee explains that a 2008 California Supreme Court decision held that under Prop 215, which had similar language to Prop 19 on this issue, an employer could indeed fire someone for using medical marijuana. Yet again the Cal Chamber is exposed as liars bent on having total power over their workers and society as a whole.

5 thoughts on “If Someone Shows Up To Work Stoned…You Fire Them”

  1. This was already decided in the Ragingwire case, which the Cal Chamber is aware of because their books discuss it.

    Yes, you can terminate someone for being stoned at work. Cal Chamber must be high to have forgotten that.

  2. Here’s a link to some corporate shill asshat from Cal Chamber being quoted on the aforementioned Ragingwire case in the Sac Bee.


    God Bless America. Even Google-searchable-refutable lies go unpunished by the media.

  3. That’s why they repealed it for alcohol. It didn’t work. In fact, it made things a LOT worse.

    It hasn’t worked for drugs either. Never has. Never will. Our “war” on drugs has produced a real-life crime war in Central and Latin America, and here at home. It has done nothing to help the people whose lives have been ruined by addiction. And it has wrecked the lives of many who are not addicts or criminals. But military contractors and private prison providers have made a lot of money off of it–and continue to support it with some of the big bucks we’ve paid them. Because, face it, the worse it works, the more they make.

    So we have a choice, we can help people. Or we can help profits. It’s up to the voters.

  4. Russ Belville, outreach coordinator for NORML, did an analysis on the Stash Blog which takes a different view, Robert.

    He says in analyzing section 11304 (c): “This is a big one. You can’t be punished or denied privileges based on pot smoking. The only exception is employers preventing you from smoking pot on the job. Note the 'actually impairs job performance' language [in the initiative]. This is the loophole through which some attorney is going to drive a big truck delivering us freedom from workplace pee testing for cannabis.”

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