Monthly Archives: November 2009

Employers Foggy on Medical Marijuana

One of Washington’s courts of appeals has ruled that residents fired for using medical marijuana cannot sue their former employer.

The case came from a Kitsap woman who got a job at TeleTech in East Bremerton. “Jane Roe” was fired in 2006 for failing a drug test despite telling the company she was a legal medical marijuana user under state law.

After a Kitsap judge sided with the company, the court of appeals took up the issue, examining specifically whether Washington’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act, approved by voters in 1998, would allow such suits.

Thirteen states, including Washington, allow certain patients to receive recommendations from a doctor for medical marijuana. More may be on the way.

But in her decision, appellate judge Christine Quinn-Brintnall, said the voters’ approved initiative only gives medical pot patients the ability to defend themselves from criminal charges in court, and has no implications for employers.

“It is clear from a common sense reading of (the Medical Use of Marijuana Act’s) plain language that the voters did not intend to impose any duty on private employers to accommodate employee use of medical marijuana,” she said.

Washington’s courts may have brought clarity on the issue, but the rest of the country is still feeling hazy, according to an article in the National Law Journal.

Here’s an exert of the article, by Tresa Baldas:

“It has really come onto everyone’s radar screen,” said Danielle Urban of the Denver office of Atlanta’s Fisher & Phillips. “I’m getting calls from employers saying, ‘I have an employee who tested positive for medical marijuana. What can I do? Can I fire that employee?'”

Her answer? It depends.

Urban said that under federal law, employers are not prohibited from taking adverse actions against someone who tests positive for marijuana. But Colorado permits medical marijuana, and another state law says it’s illegal for an employer to fire someone for engaging in legal, off-duty behavior.

And then there’s the Americans With Disabilities Act to consider. Under the ADA, an employee fired for using pot for health reasons could file a discrimination lawsuit.

“It’s a gray area to know what you can do,” Urban said. “But I think it’s still risky to just fire someone for using it.”

They Stole Her Stuff, But they Couldn’t Take this Bremerton Woman’s Resolve

Here’s a crime with a happy ending: a Bremerton woman who tracked down her GPS device after it was stolen from her car.

How’d she get it back, you ask?

Astrid, 29, went over to her local pawn shop.

A friend of hers had recommended she do so after her Magellan Roadmate was taken from her car overnight in early November.

She’d been soured by the theft, the second time her GPS had been taken from her car (she says her husband had forgotten to lock it).

When she went to the pawn shop to see if thieves had sold it there, an employee said she needed the GPS’ serial number. Thankfully, she still had it on the box it came in.

She gave the number to the employee, who checked their inventory on a computer.

“As soon as he hit the enter key,” she said, “His eyes grew bigger.”

The simple lesson here is that checking one place, she got her property back. Even attempting to have the insurance cover it — adding in what could be a costly deductible — would have been more complicated.

And Astrid not only got her GPS device back, but she helped the police cease — at least temporarily — other thefts.

How, you ask?

An officer went to the pawn shop and found out who sold the GPS device. He then went to that man’s house, and after finding out he had help, two people were arrested, and will be prosecuted for it.

So in this short tale are three lessons:

1. lock up your stuff;

2. keep the serial numbers of your stuff;

3. if your stuff gets stolen, conduct some simple due diligence (file a police report and check area pawn shops).

Blogger’s Note: To read a similar success story, click here to learn about a Silverdale man who got his GPS device back too.

Next Session, Lawmakers Will Look at Sex Offender Clusters

Last week, local residents aired their concerns about a clustering of sex offenders at a few properties on the 900 block of Washington Avenue. Most weren’t worried about an offender moving to the street; it seemed to be the fact that there were eight on the block — a “concentration,” many called it.

Well, the state legislature may just tackle such an issue in two planned bills — house bill 1430 and senate bill 5648 — when lawmakers meet in Olympia next year.

Here’s the text, as given to me by Bremerton police’s community resource specialist Andrew Oakley:

“(The Bill) Requires the department of corrections to, prior to approving a residence location and in addition to any other factors considered by it in exercising its discretion regarding release plans for and supervision of sex offenders,consider the number of registered sex offenders currently residing within one mile of the proposed address.”

The bills will be heard in committees in early February. I’ll keep an eye on the discussion.

Sex Offenders and Bremerton: ‘What is the Attraction?’

The population of sex offenders has been steadily rising in Bremerton. Andrew Oakley, Bremerton police’s community resource specialist, sent me some data recently that confirms this: in January 2008, there were 186 such offenders; in January 2009 there were 196; now there are 210.

I point these stats out not to scare our local residents, but rather to ask why we’re seeing such an increase. (I should also point out that crime in Kitsap and Bremerton has been steadily decreasing overall.)

Is it budget cuts by the Department of Corrections that’s leading to more offenders being released? Is it an increased amount of disclosures by victims that is leading to more convictions? Is Bremerton simply a place that has services and housing availability, as was pointed out in Tuesday night’s meeting concerning offenders on Washington Avenue? Perhaps a mixture of those?

I got an email earlier this week from Tom Isbell, who ran his own data using the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office “Offender Watch” web site (I’d encourage you to check it out too). He found a higher concentration per capita of level 3 and level 2 sex offenders in Bremerton than that of Seattle.

His analysis: (Number of sex offenders/total population/percentage of offenders per population)

King County: 1596 / 1,826,732 / (0.1%)

Seattle 963 /  596,000 /  (0.2%)

Bremerton 103 /  population 34,079 /  (0.3%)

Kitasp County 248 / population 239,769 / (0.1%)

He ponders such a concentration as well:

“Is it low income housing and cheap rent? Is it the services like an offender rehabilitation/treatment program offered in Bremerton? Is there a benefit for a landlord to rent to convicted sex offenders? I find it strange that there are that many convicted sex offenders in such a small area,” he said in his email.

“What is the attraction?” he added.

I’ll be looking for answers to these questions. In the meantime, please feel free to weigh in with your own analysis.

Daily News: Tribal Officers Acted ‘Improperly’ Holding Mason County Hunters

Updating an earlier item, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has found Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe’s natural resources officers acted “improperly” when detaining some Mason County elk hunters in Brinnon Oct. 3, according to the Peninsula Daily News.

Reporter Erik Hidle says both the sheriff’s office and the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife found the hunters, who had permission from the state to hunt the elk, had committed no violations and had not trespassed, and thus had committed no crime. The officers “lacked any legal authority to arrest or detain nontribal members off the reservation,” Hidle quoted Department of Fish and Wildlife Deputy Chief Mike Cenci as saying.

Here’s one additional snippet from the Peninsula Daily News story with a local connection:

“Jefferson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Stringer, who is a former officer with Suquamish tribal police, has said that all tribal officers have jurisdiction only on tribal land, if they are dealing with tribal members or if they have a cross-commission from the sheriff.”

So what’s next?

The article indicates that Jefferson County prosecutors — who might have help from the state’s attorney general’s office — have the report and could file charges. Just what they file, if they do, will remain a mystery for now.

Get Your Child’s Fingerprints, Photo and DNA Free Saturday

The thought of anyone’s child going missing is unconscionable. Yet it seems in this day and age, anything a parent can do to help safeguard their children from such an event is worth doing.

On Saturday, Peninsula Subraru hosts “The DNA Lifeprint Child Safety Event.” Put simply, you can take your children and get their digital fingerprints, a photo and a home DNA identification kit — all free of charge. All the items will be bundled into what’s called a child safety journal, which contains all the data law enforcement would need in the event the unthinkable happens.

The organizers note that none of the information is taken by authorities. It is for parents to keep. But should a child go missing, the information could be given to police and quickly added to a national database, greatly increasing the chances the child will come home safely.

The event is from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and there will even be free barbecue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Peninsula Subaru is located at 3888 West Highway 16, in Gorst. For more information, call Steve Taylor and Gus Hillman at (800) 458-5808.

Mystery Shrouds Death of Belfair Native in California

The mysterious shooting death of a Belfair native is making headlines in a California town east of San Francisco.

Benjamin Merrill, 22, was found shot to death in a Pittsburg, California park at 3 a.m last Tuesday, according to a story in the local Contra Costa Times. Though he’d grown up in Belfair, he’d become a waiter in San Francisco, the story says.

But despite the police’s best efforts, they have no idea how he got there. In fact, they didn’t even know who he was. It took one of his relative’s happenstance appearance in a nearby courthouse to see a sketch of then John Doe to realize it was Merill.

Read the story here.