Cal. Supreme Court Rules: Medical Pot Users Can be Fired

In Gary Ross v RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc., the California Supreme Court considered the case of an employee who was taking marijuana for medicinal purposes (to deal with a back injury). When he tested positive for marijuana, his employer fired him. Plaintiff sued for disability discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, among other things. The California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (CUA) protects medical pot users and their prescribing doctors from state criminal prosecution. However, under federal criminal law, they remain subject to criminal prosecution.

On January 24, the Supreme Court ruled that the CUA does not protect medical pot users from being fired by their employers for marijuana use.

I watched the oral arguments here. It seemed to me the Supremes were focusing on the conflict between state and federal criminal law over the legality of marijuana use. Plaintiff was arguing for a logical extension of the CUA to the employment context while Defendants were arguing a limited interpretation of the CUA. In the end, the Supremes did the conservative thing and ruled that the CUA did not extend its protections to the employment context. Several of the Supremes (Kennard and Werdegar come to mind) seemed to WANT to do so, though.

Tough break for all you medical pot users out there. Even if you’re administering the medical marijuana only while at home, that apparently won’t save you.

UPDATE: I’ve learned the vote breakdown among the Supremes on RagingWire. Justice Werdegar wrote the majority opinion (joined by George, Chin, Baxter, Corrigan), while Justice Kennard wrote the dissent (joined by Moreno).


  1. Lovin da Blues on March 12, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Who enforces CA civil code 51-54.7? I have left messages for city & district attorney, and have tried to call attorney general and told they ONLY represent government agencies.

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