The Oregon Supreme Court has agreed to review Washburn v. Columbia Forest Products, Inc., a case that will clarify how much protection the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) affords workers.
Robert Washburn was hired by Columbia in 1996 to work in a Klamath Falls mill that produced plywood. Washburn got a card through the state medical marijuana program in 1999 after a doctor approved its use for painrelated insomnia. Washburn never showed signs of impairment on the job, but was fired in 2001 after his urine tested positive for marijuana metabolites. Washburn sued for reinstatement and back pay.
A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge ruled against him, citing a clause in OMMA saying the act shall not be construed to require “an employer to accommodate use of medical marijuana in the workplace.”
Washburn appealed, arguing that he didn’t use marijuana at the mill (“in” his workplace) but only at home, before going to bed. In January of this year the Court of Appeals ruled for Washburn. Columbia Forest Products then asked the state supreme court to review the ruling. They will hear arguments November 7.
The prospect of Washburn prevailing inspired an employers’ consortium to try to undermine OMMA by a bill, HB2693, confirming their “right” to fire workers who use marijuana whether on or off the job. It passed the Republican-controlled House this summer, then failed in a Democrat-controlled Senate committee.
“This may be a temporary reprieve,” says Bayer, who expects the employers to reintroduce the measure.