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DHS news release

October 24, 2005


Contact: Mimi Bushman, Workdrugfree (503) 293-0011 ext. 336; cell (503) 313-1733


(This is being distributed as a courtesy to Workdrugfree, a DHS contractor.)


Free employer workshop to address issue of medical marijuana in the workplace



An employment lawyer, a personnel director and a substance-abuse expert will speak to a free Nov. 15 workshop for employers, "Medical Marijuana in the Workplace," at the Phoenix Inn in Albany.


"About 10,000 Oregonians carry medical-marijuana registration cards, and handling marijuana in the workplace is the No. 1 question employers are asking SAIF," says Paula Barran, partner in the Portland law firm Barran Liebman. "While we wait for the Oregon Supreme Court to rule, we want to help them with this issue."


The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in Washburn v. Columbia Forest Products that employees registered with the state to use marijuana as a medicine may retain employment rights even if they fail a drug test. On appeal, the case is scheduled to be heard Nov. 7 by the Oregon Supreme Court.


Panelists for the 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. workshop will be:

  • Paula Barran, attorney and fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, who will address how legal issues affect company substance-abuse policies and programs.
  • Rick Howell, Columbia Forest Products director of organizational development and human resources, who will talk about the Portland-based company's experience with medical marijuana in the workplace.
  • Jerry Gjesvold, employer services manager for Eugene-based Serenity Lane Treatment Center, who will discuss employee fitness for work and other safety concerns confronting employers statewide.


"More and more employers have been faced with the difficulty of how to respond when an employee tests positive, then presents a medical marijuana card," says Gjesvold. "The possibility of having to accommodate employees with medical marijuana cards creates a direct conflict with an employer's drug-free workplace policy."


The panel is co-sponsored by the Worksource Oregon, the Region 4 Workforce Investment Board and Workdrugfree, with which the Oregon Department of Human Services contracts to help employers with drug-free workplace policies and programs. Employers wishing to register for the free Nov. 15 workshop may phone Susanne Isom at (541) 758-2642 or email her at sisom@csc.gen.or.us