Acceptability of legal pot a grey area for employers

First customer at Spokane's first legal marijuana shop says he was fired for his efforts

Spokane pot enthusiast Mike Boyer says he was fired after smoking marijuana on camera as the first customer in the city June 8, 2014. (KOIN 6)
Spokane pot enthusiast Mike Boyer says he was fired after smoking marijuana on camera as the first customer in the city June 8, 2014. (KOIN 6)

SPOKANE, Wash. (KOIN 6) — A man who waited in line overnight to be the first customer at Spokane’s first legal marijuana shop says he was fired for his efforts. But the company says his story doesn’t make sense.

Mike Boyer said Wednesday that after significant media coverage of his purchase Tuesday, he received a text message from the Spokane office of temporary staffing firm TrueBlue Labor Ready ordering him to take a drug test within 24 hours.

He told The Associated Press he took the test, failed it and was fired. Stacey Burke, a spokeswoman Tacoma-based TrueBlue, says company policy prohibits being under the influence on the job.

She said there’s no reason he would have been fired for having bought the pot, nor would the purchase have given the company reason to order him to take a drug test.

She says the company is looking into Boyer’s claims, and that if he was fired outside of protocol, he would be reinstated.

“I think for the next 5 or ten years, there’s going to be a struggle on how to deal with this,” said Vancouver Labor Attorney Greg Ferguson.

Ferguson explained that cultural norms play a large part in dictating employers’ and co-workers’ acceptability of legal marijuana use.

He said attitudes toward legal pot – like alcohol after prohibition – will change over time, but for now, Ferguson said there’s no legal protection for employees.

“Right here today, employees need to know there’s no protection for using marijuana, and the battle was already fought with regard to state medical marijuana law and the employee lost,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson said Boyer’s case in particular point to another layer up for legal debate.

“It’s gonna be the privacy of an employee and does an employee have a right to do what they want to do on their own time without an employer over reaching into their personal life?” said Ferguson.

Vancouver city officials said nothing in writing mentions marijuana, but they’re “working on possible changes to their current substance abuse policy.”

The Director of Human Resources said in an email that for now, they’re treating marijuana as a legal product.

Still, Ferguson offered some words of advice.

“Be careful and review your employer’s policy,” said Ferguson.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.  

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