Group: Prop 19 Would Mean Pot-Smoking at Work

CalChamber challenges November ballot measure

By Jessica Greene
|  Sunday, Aug 15, 2010  |  Updated 12:59 PM PDT
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If marijuana was legal for adults in California, would more people show up at work high? And how would that change the definition of a "smoke break" during work hours?

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If marijuana was legal for adults in California, would more people show up at work high? And how would that change the definition of a "smoke break" during work hours?

That's the latest issue facing proponents of Proposition 19, the ballot measure that would make marijuana legal for adults in California.

Voters will have a chance in November to decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes for adults over 21 but the political debate over the controversial issue has been heating up for quite some time. The latest argument against the ballot measure is that given the legal freedom to smoke pot, people will be high at work.

The California Chamber of Commerce on Thursday released a legal analysis that claims Proposition 19 would lead to more workplace accidents by forcing employers to let workers smoke pot on the job.

The analysis by the non-profit group also challenges the proposed law by claiming it would make California companies ineligible for federal contracts because employers could not guarantee a drug-free workplace.

From the CalChamber website:

If this measure were approved, employers, including the State of California, would be faced with the burden of proving that an employee who tests positive for marijuana is “actually impaired” from performing the job before taking any adverse action against the employee. This process would delay disciplinary actions used to protect workplace safety and drive up costs due to increased litigation.

But the debate hits a wall with medical marijuana proponents, who say it's much safer than certain prescription drugs.

Nick Willis, of Palliative Health Care in San Jose, argues that in some cases, worker performance could be enhanced by cannabis.

"I have families members with severe arthirtis." Willis told us, "If they're typing or driving for work, they apply it to their knuckles and it helps relieve some pain."

Prop 19 supporters say under the law, employers will still have the right to make their own rules and if being drug-free is a job requirement, employers can ban their workers from smoking marijuana.

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