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 And since Prohibition was repealed in 1933, American workplaces seem to have gotten along just fine without legal alcohol destroying economic productivity (even at Sterling Cooper).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.