That obnoxious air horn you heard blasting across Downtown Thursday night? That was me. I'd just heard that a congressional committee had voted to extend the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. To celebrate, I mounted a horse and took to the streets blasting that loud bastard like the end of the world was on my heels.
The amendment—which shows up in the yearly fiscal budget for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies—was the only thing standing between the Department of Justice and medical cannabis dispensaries, and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who is apparently being sued by former NFL defensive end Marvin Washington along with four other plaintiffs for not decriminalizing cannabis) made everyone uneasy when he sent a letter to congressional leaders in May, asking that they undo it this year.
The Senate Appropriations Committee's rejection of Sessions' personal plea against protecting medical cannabis should send a strong message to the DOJ about the way the wind's blowing. Let's also not forget that the vote came on July 27, the deadline Sessions gave to the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety for its recommendations “in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana” in relation to “reducing violent crime.”
And I wouldn't want to presume that I know what Sessions and the DOJ are up to, but those crooked rotten gangsters reenacted the asset forfeiture program last month. Remember that ol' thing? It allowed the police to just take any money or goods from anyone suspected of a drug-related crime, whether or not they are guilty. There have actually been cases where law enforcement has seized cash from suspects who were later exonerated of all charges, and those people would still have to sue to get their money back. It was an abhorrent and criminal practice that was rightly banned by the Obama administration. And Sessions' desire to bring it back just as he declares war on medical cannabis … Well. Let's just say it's suspicious.
I guess all that juicy dispensary money won't be going into the DOJ's pocket after all.
Mass. Court Offers Job Protection to Cannabis Patients
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of an employee who was fired over her use of medical cannabis. According to the ruling, Massachusetts' medical cannabis patients now have the right to sue their employer if they're fired because of a failed drug test.
The case involved an employee who allegedly disclosed her medical cannabis use to a prospective employer, and was told it wouldn't be a problem. She took a drug test and, after working for only a single day, was fired because the results of her drug test had come back positive for THC.
Her initial lawsuit against the company—which accused them of handicap discrimination in violation of Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination law along with wrongful termination—was dismissed in court because of the federal ban on cannabis. The Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the appeal, however, means the company can be sued after all, and Massachusetts business owners can no longer take any adverse action against employees because of their use of the legal medication.
Why is this news important in New Mexico? Because we don't have any such protections. If a New Mexican patient wants to get a job that tests for cannabis use, they have to stop taking their medication for up to 90 days before they can even apply. According to a Society for Human Resource Management poll, 57 percent of employers use these drug tests as part of their hiring process. That means that in a state with a 6.7 percent unemployment rate (the highest in the nation, mind you), where over 44,000 patients are enrolled in the program (that's more than 2 percent of the population, you know), medical cannabis patients who just hit the pipe before reading this are going to have to wait another three months before they can apply at that new job. And those three months are going to be full of pain and suffering. Hi-o!
At the very least, the ruling sets a model for states where medical cannabis is legal to follow.
Doña Ana County Detention Center Director Christopher Barela was busted last month for buying illegal cannabis. According to court records, the Las Cruces jail director purchased street cannabis from undercover sources on four separate occasions earlier this year. He's been charged with four counts of marijuana possession in a criminal complaint.
The best part is that the New Mexico chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)—always on the lookout for good spots to inject some jet black irony—issued an open letter to Barela offering support and solidarity. Apparently, they tried to start a crowdfunding campaign to help with Barela's legal expenses, but GoFundMe rejected their campaign. From the letter: “Mr. Barela, you no doubt understand now that the most dangerous thing about marijuana is getting caught with it.”