weather icon Partly Cloudy

Panel: State medical pot law poses lawsuit risk for employers

CARSON CITY — Lack of clarity in Nevada’s medical marijuana law opens the door for litigation over employer requirements to accommodate workers who use medicinal marijuana, lawyers told a state advisory panel Wednesday.

Edwin Keller Jr. and Robert Spretnak, labor and employment law attorneys, told the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice that a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000 legalizing marijuana for medical use did not require employers to accommodate workers who use it.

But a law passed by the 2013 Legislature setting up a regulatory and taxing structure to implement commercial medical marijuana is ambiguous and ripe for legal action, they said.

“One thing we share is, there’s a lack of guidance due to the ambiguities in the statutes,” said Spretnak, who represents employees in his legal practice. Keller is an employer attorney.

The state law says employers are not required to allow use of medical marijuana in the workplace or modify jobs or working conditions for someone who does.

But the law also says an employer must “attempt to make reasonable accommodations” for employees who hold a valid medical marijuana card so long as marijuana use doesn’t pose a threat of harm or danger, cause undue hardship on the employer, or prohibit the employee from fulfilling any or all of their responsibilities.

“Litigating a case after somebody has been fired is not the ideal way to solve a problem,” Spretnak said.

Keller also said the law doesn’t distinguish what type and size of businesses are required to try to accommodate medical pot users, or how such requirements are to be enforced.

Additionally, he said it doesn’t address pre-employment drug screening. Can medical marijuana card holders be denied employment if they test positive?

Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty, chairman of the commission, indicated he would form a subcommittee of the advisory panel to further study the issues.

Hardesty on Wednesday also raised concerns about billboards in Las Vegas for “Dr. Reefer” that advertise a toll-free number to call for medical marijuana cards.

Officials with the Division of Public and Behavioral Health, which regulates Nevada’s medical marijuana program, said there are consultants who assist medical marijuana patients through the application process to obtain a card, adding the division has no authority to restrict advertising by doctors.

Chad Westom, chief of the medical marijuana program, said the number of card holders in Nevada has tripled since laws allowing for commercial cultivation and sale was passed three years ago.

Steve Gilbert, state program manager, said 461 licensed Nevada physicians have signed recommendations for patients to obtain medical marijuana cards.

There are currently 15,238 medical marijuana cardholders, plus another 1,144 who are caregivers for patients.

The first cultivation, production, testing labs and dispensaries opened in Nevada in 2015. So far only about 22 percent of the facilities that were awarded licenses are open for business and officials expect the number of cardholders to continue to grow as medical pot becomes more accessible.

Nevadans in November will also vote on making marijuana legal for recreational use.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com. Find @SandraChereb on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Salvation Army hit by thieves

As Pahrump’s Salvation Army prepares to serve families in need during the holiday season, approximately $500 worth of new toys set aside for its annual Angel Tree program were recently stolen, along with Christmas decorations and items being stored for the Kiwanis Club and Pahrump’s Sleep In Heavenly Peace organization.

Pahrump community comes together for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for appreciation and for hundreds of Pahrump area residents and visitors, there was plenty to be grateful for this year at the Pahrump Holiday Task Force’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

Pahrump Valley Academy virtual town hall set for Saturday

Throughout much of 2019 and into 2020, a group of local residents hoping to add a new educational option to the valley worked diligently toward establishing Pahrump Valley Academy, which would have been the valley’s very first public charter school, only to have the proposal nixed in early 2020.

Rotary Club encouraging students to read

The Pahrump Rotary Club has performed countless community service projects since its inception in 1987.

Bowling for Our Wounded Warriors – Fundraiser set for Dec. 5

Donning a U.S. armed forces uniform is something that comes with great risk and the men and women who step up to take on the challenge of protecting America through military service often come home with injuries, both the visible and the invisible kind.

Man calls 911 while speaking to deputies, report says

Nye County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested a man who allegedly called 911 for a complaint about loud music at a residence along South Chippewa Street last week but ended up getting arrested himself.

Development of Pahrump’s Kellogg Park tracking right along

Development of Pahrump’s newest park, Kellogg Park on the southern end of the valley, continues to move along steadily, with a variety of milestones reached in recent months and officials with the town of Pahrump and Nye County now setting their sights on the next steps of the development process.

PLAC to decide on Rough Hat recommendations; meeting Nov. 30 in Pahrump

Throughout its many years, the Pahrump Public Lands Advisory Committee hasn’t seen a whole lot of community involvement, with the group historically hosting its monthly meetings amid almost empty audiences.

Together With Veterans hosting SWOT assessment meeting in Pahrump

The men and women who have served in the United States military have given of themselves, made sacrifices on a daily basis and put the safety of others before themselves in order to protect America but when service comes to an end and they return to civilian life, the transition can be jarring.

Beatty Advisory Board deals with trails, racing, blue light

There will be no informal election to choose appointees to the Beatty Town Advisory Board. Randy Reed and Erika Gerling, whose terms expire at the end of the year, were the only people to submit letters of interest, so the Board voted, at their Nov. 22 meeting, to forward their names to the Board of County Commissioners for reappointment.