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Pot legalization would come with employment law limits

If marijuana is legalized, would everybody of age be able to smoke it, or would certain employers hold their employees to a different standard. I ask because I would have concerns about doctors, nurses, police and firemen smoking it, and how or if they could be separated.

— Chris G., Central Point

Well, Chris, the issue of employers prohibiting use of a now-legal substance has already come up in Washington and Colorado, where voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012. In both states, employers still have the ability to fire employees who violate their zero-tolerance policies that list marijuana as a prohibited substance, and the proposed Oregon law looks to allow the state's employers the same freedom.

The text of the Colorado law, Amendment 64, contains specific language saying it doesn't require employers to allow or accommodate the use "of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of employers to have policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees."

The full text of the proposed Oregon law, Measure 91, contains similar language, saying its provisions "may not be construed to amend or affect in any way any state or federal law pertaining to employment matters."

Numerous public agencies in Jackson County — including emergency services providers — have strict no-drugs policies that prohibit marijuana use on or off duty. The Medford Police Department's policy manual, for example, states that "use of marijuana, including medical marijuana, on or off duty, is prohibited and may lead to disciplinary action."

Even if legalized at the state level, marijuana will remain a federal Schedule I controlled substance whose possession, delivery or manufacture may be subject to federal criminal penalties.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.