SAN FRANCISCO - Supporters and opponents of a ballot measure to legalize marijuana in California are dueling over the law's possible effects on employers and the workplace.
The California Chamber of Commerce claimed in a legal analysis released Thursday that Proposition 19 would lead to more workplace accidents by forcing employers to let workers smoke pot on the job.
The analysis also contends the law would make California companies ineligible for federal contracts because employers could not guarantee a drug-free workplace.
The proposition's supporters dispute the chamber's findings. They point to the state Legislative Analyst's Office's determination that employers would "retain existing rights to address consumption of marijuana that impairs an employee's job performance."
Mainly at issue is a section of the proposition that says no one can "be denied any right or privilege" because they engaged in legal conduct permitted by the act, such as smoking pot.
The section continues: "The existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance by an employee shall not be affected."
The chamber claims the proposition would create a new, ill-defined standard of "actual impairment" that would prevent employers from disciplining workers simply for consuming marijuana. Instead, according to the chamber's analysis, employers would have to prove that pot impaired an employee's job performance.
"For example, if a forklift driver showed up reeking of marijuana smoke, an employer could not take disciplinary action until it could be proven that the employee's job performance was 'actually impaired' by the marijuana use (for example, after an accident occurred)," the chamber wrote.
The Proposition 19 campaign said in a statement Thursday that employers under the law would still be able to prohibit and punish employees for marijuana consumption that impairs job performance just as they would for alcohol.
Employers would still be able to ban possession or consumption of pot at work and keep rules in place that involve driving or operating dangerous machinery, the campaign said. Employers could still certify that they maintained a "drug-free" workplace by prohibiting marijuana possession or use on the job.
"Presumably the Chamber does not prohibit its employees from drinking alcohol at home as long as it doesn't affect job performance?" the campaign said.
Proposition 19 would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot for personal use. Individuals could grow up to 25-square-foot marijuana gardens on private property. Cities and counties would decide whether to allow sales and taxation of marijuana within their boundaries.
Recent polls have shown California voters are closely divided over the measure.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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