Drug Law

Say "No" to Lies; Say "Yes" to Prop. 19

| by NORML

By Paul Armentano

In a last gasp desperate attempt to mislead California voters, Prop. 19 opponents — led by the California Chamber of Commerce — have released radio ads alleging that the measure allows employees to be ‘high’ in the workplace, undermines the state’s already downtrodden economy, and will cost the state billions of dollars in federal funding. (Listen to the Cal Chamber ads here and here.)

Both The Huffington Post and the Sacramento Bee have condemned the ads as distortion. Huffington Post writer Ryan Grim has even uncovered a Cal Chamber internal memo acknowledging that most voters support Prop. 19 — that is, until Californians are told outright lies about it by the Cal Chamber. (See excerpt below.)

The Chamber has just completed an extensive survey to determine the likelihood of prop 19 being passed by the voters and what arguments are most persuasive. … Most voters have made up their mind on whether marijuana possession should be illegal and there seems to be a majority of likely voters who no longer think i[t] should carry criminal penalties. On the other hand, though, when voters are told that employers would not be able to control marijuana use at work, proposition 19 is opposed by a majority of voters.

Today’s Los Angeles Times online has an excellent commentary demolishing the Cal Chamber’s disingenuous ad campaign. Below is an excerpt:

The California Chamber’s reefer madness
via The Los Angeles Times

[Prop. 19] explicitly forbid[s] the use of marijuana in public and in the workplace and maintain legal restrictions that penalize those who are under the influence while on the job or on California’s roadways. According to an analysis published by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, “Employers would retain existing rights to address consumption of marijuana that impairs an employee’s job performance.”

In other words, employers would still have the power to punish those who get high on the job. Consuming marijuana at home and then showing up to work impaired by its effects would still be banned under Proposition 19, just as employers can punish their employees for arriving to work drunk. Further, because Proposition 19 would maintain prohibitions on using marijuana in public, employees would also be forbidden from consuming pot during their work breaks. Employers have and will maintain the right to establish, develop and enforce any policy they choose that does not violate any existing statute after Proposition 19 passes, just as before.

So why would the Chamber of Commerce claim otherwise? Opponents of Proposition 19 appear to be fixated on one particular clause in the proposition — language that happens to be clearly written and very specific — which requires employers to acknowledge an employee’s impaired job performance before they can discipline or fire them. Of course, this is the same standard that exists for alcohol. Off-the-job alcohol consumption that has no adverse effect on workplace performance is acceptable, while alcohol use that impairs workplace performance, including the use of alcohol in legally acceptable situations and environments, is grounds for discipline or termination.

Further, Proposition 19 would in no way undermine federal drug-free workplace rules or California’s ability to receive federal grants. Just as the state’s 14-year experience with legalized medical marijuana has never once jeopardized or cost California federal funding, Proposition 19 wouldn’t either. In fact, in 2008, the California Supreme Court determined in Ross vs. RagingWire Telecom that legal protections allowing for the use of marijuana in private do not extend to the workplace. End of story.

It’s disappointing, though entirely predictable, that those with vested interests in the status quo would resort to these sort of lies and distortions in their efforts to confuse voters. Those of you with last minute questions regarding Prop. 19, what it would do and what it would not do, are welcome to read NORML’s word-by-word analysis of the measure here or read specific sections of the act here. If you reside in California and you wish to help the Campaign get out the vote this weekend, you can sign up to volunteer here.