Alibi V.28 No.29 • July 18-24, 2019 

Baked Goods

Get With the Program

New laws make some uncomfortable

Baked Goods logo
Rob M.

The recent Medical Marijuana Changes bill has the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board in an uproar, apparently.

In a recent editorial, “NM’s changes for medical marijuana create a fog around drug-free workplace rules,” the editorial board says that protections for medical cannabis patients against employment discrimination contradict with other parts of the law that protect employers' rights to enforce a drug-free workplace. According to the piece, barring an employer from firing a medical cannabis patient somehow means those employees can be high on the job.

The editorial: “So if you’re one of the approximately 73,000 people in the state who fit into that category, that would seem to say that for the most part you can 'medicate' and come to work.”

That is clearly not what the law says: “It is unlawful to take an adverse employment action against an applicant or an employee based on conduct allowed under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act.” It immediately clarifies that nothing in the law shall “restrict an employer's ability to prohibit or take adverse employment action against an employee for use of, or being impaired by, medical cannabis on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment.”

Journal board: “One of the main problems is that other than testing—as you would, for example with alcohol in a DWI case—there isn’t a good way to determine under the influence.”

The logic here is so impaired that I've been grinding my teeth into a thin white paste ever since I read it. If a worker enrolled in the program does not show signs of being under the influence—the same policy that applies to other drugs, prescription or otherwise—then there's no issue at all, outside of the Journal editorial staff's apparent derision of the compound. Recognizing and proving impairment on the job won’t suddenly become impossible just because a law passed. And the fault with the drug tests isn’t that they can’t suss out a cannabis user, as the piece implies. It’s that they show too wide a window of “influence”—one that far exceeds actual impairment—and are more beneficial to a company than an accused worker.

The whole editorial basically says: Cannabis users look like everyone else—just like you and me—which means they can be hiding under our very noses and we wouldn't know! Isn't that terrifying?

The staff really seem to be proving what I've guessed for a while now: They're still living in the late '80s, watching eggs fry in the pan and wearing D.A.R.E. shirts. As I've pointed out before, they still think hemp “belongs to the cannabis species of plants like marijuana,” implying that a cursory Google search of the subject is outside of their research capabilities.

Per the Journal: “Suffice it to say, it’s a fairly low bar to enroll, and one visit now gets you a card good for three years. Thankfully, that’s not true of prescription pain killers.”

The whole thing gives us the sense that medical cannabis patients are just druggies gaming the system who shouldn't be given the same rights as every other person in the workforce. And note that they somehow think that the threat of scammers looking to get into the medical cannabis program is comparable to the goddamn opioid epidemic. It's absolutely insane.

They finally show their true motivation when they quote Terri Cole of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce as saying, “Anything that would limit an employer’s ability to enforce their drug-free workplace programs would be problematic. It certainly needs clarity. …”

In reality, only federal employers are required to enforce the “Drug-Free Workplace” programs he refers to. Non-federal employers only have to have a policy in place if they want to contract with the federal government or to receive certain grants. And the law clearly protects those involved in these federal programs anyway. The whole section starts with: “Unless a failure to do so would cause the employer to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or federal regulations …”

So, yes. Enforcing the new laws will definitely have a negative impact on some companies, but pretending that it's impossible to reconcile is nonsense. Considering corporate needs over those of the public is disgusting. It's like Southern plantation owners complaining that ending slavery would ruin their business.

Tough. No one cares about your bank account.

Legalization Group Meets

The first meeting of the governor's Cannabis Legalization Working Group went down last week. The group's stated purpose is to study the recreational cannabis policies of other states and construct a comprehensive one for New Mexico.

The task force, led by Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, spent most of its first meeting getting the group in order while members patted each other on the back for being progressive. The good news is that it looks like they're serious about legalizing cannabis in 2020.

“I think the governor made it clear she wants to see a bill on her desk, that she’s willing to sign this and the details matter,” said Davis.

This gives them scant time to cobble together a working piece of legislature—we're already halfway through the summer—and it looks like members of the group want to speed up that process by leaning on an old bill that stalled in the Senate earlier this year. House Bill 356, a “compromise” bill, would have set up state-run recreational stores. I hated the idea then, and I still hate it now.

I'll be watching this group with a close and critical eye, dear readers.

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