Weed at work

I’m searching for a job and want to work for a company that is “pot friendly.” For me, this would be an employer that does not drug test and would not fire me for having a medical-cannabis recommendation. I have a friend who suffered a work accident and a drug test showed THC; she was fired. So, how do I find a job where I can use my medicine and not fear discipline or dismissal?

—Matt in Davis

You just made it that much harder for other guys in Davis named Matt to get jobs. (I’m just busting your chops.)

You have no legal right in California to use marijuana and keep a job. A letter of recommendation does not stop you from being fired (or not hired). The case of Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications in 2008 gives employers the right to fire you for cannabis use.

However, there are ways. I spoke with Rick Pfrommer, one of the people in charge of hiring at Harborside Health Center dispensary in Oakland, about how cannabis patients can discuss pot use with their employers.

“If you really must use cannabis medicinally,” he said, “get as much documentation as you can. Not just a note from a doctor that mostly writes letters of recommendation, but one from your primary-care physician. Get two letters if you can. Have all of your medical records ready to go.”

He even advises you to talk to human resources about it, if you’re comfortable doing that. “Tell them you don’t do it at work, that it doesn’t affect your performance and that you have your medical records,” Pfrommer said, adding that it might not work, so you may just have to abstain for a month, if it’s just a pre-employment screening.

But Joe Elford, lawyer with Americans for Safe Access and attorney on the Ross case, says help may be on the way. Senate Bill 129, introduced by Sen. Mark Leno in 2008 but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is set to be reintroduced next year. It would prevent employers for firing medical-cannabis users for failing drug tests, although they could still be fired for being impaired on the job.

What is a “terpene profile,” and why should I care about this as a medical-cannabis patient?

—Weed Science

Quickly: Open up a bag of weed. Take a deep breath. Smell that delicious odor? Those are terpenes. Terpenes, sometimes called terpenoids, are bio-organic chemicals found mostly in the resin of plants. Pine-tree resin contains terpenes. The hop plant gets most of its flavor from terpenes. Terpenes are used in the perfume industry and to make turpentine. Generally, terpenes give marijuana its flavors. The pine scent of Trainwreck, the oily dankness of Sour Diesel—these smells come from the different terpenes in each plant. So far, scientists are unsure of the medicinal effects different terpenes have, but beta-caryophyllene (or BCP), a terpene found in significant amounts in most cannabis strains, has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory.

I am sure that if you were to find Ed Rosenthal at a Hempfest somewhere, he would be glad to break down all the different terpenes (citral, myrcene, menthol, yada-yadatol, etc.) and how they smell. But I am out of space, and so we’re going to leave it there.