San Francisco — Employers can fire workers who use medical marijuana even if it was legally recommended by a doctor, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday, dealing the state another setback in its standoff with federal law enforcement.
The high court upheld a small Sacramento telecommunications company's firing of a man who flunked a company-ordered drug test. Gary Ross held a medical marijuana card authorizing him to use the drug to treat a back injury sustained while serving in the Air Force.
The company, Ragingwire Inc., argued that it rightfully fired Ross because all marijuana use is illegal under federal law, which does not recognize the medical marijuana laws in California and 11 other states.
The justices upheld that argument in a 5-2 decision.
"No state law could completely legalize marijuana for medical purposes because the drug remains illegal under federal law," Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote for the majority.
The U.S. Supreme Court declared in 2005 that state medicinal marijuana laws don't protect users from prosecution. The Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies have been actively shutting down major medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California over the last two years and charging their operators with felony distribution charges.
Ragingwire said it fired Ross because it feared it could be the target of a federal raid, among other reasons.
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and the Western Electrical Contractors Association Inc. had joined Ragingwire's case, arguing that companies could lose federal contracts and grants if they allowed employees to smoke pot.