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County fires man who says he uses marijuana for medicinal use

February 23, 1997

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ A county worker who drives heavy construction equipment was fired for using marijuana, which he said he uses after work only to treat his glaucoma.

California approved the medical use of marijuana last fall but the federal government still considers it an illegal drug. On Thursday, a panel of experts said there some promising evidence that smoking marijuana helps some patients with cancer, AIDS or glaucoma but more study is needed.

Rob Dunaway, 38, of Mission Viejo said he was fired, effective Monday.

``I love my work. It’s what I’ve done all my life,″ Dunaway said. ``I feel I’m being discriminated against because of the medicine I use.″

County officials declined to comment on Friday.

Advocates for the medical use of marijuana said Dunaway apparently is the first medical user to lose his job since voters approved the measure in November.

Cynthia Pickett, executive director of Local 787 of the Service Employees International Union, said the union will seek an arbitration hearing.

``He clearly falls under the medical requirement of (Proposition) 215 and he clearly has documentation,″ Pickett said. ``This is not somebody trying to get out of losing their job. There is a well-documented history here.″

Dunaway drives dump trucks, bulldozers and other equipment. He was diagnosed with glaucoma at 19, and for 15 years has smoked a small amount of marijuana after work _ never before or during work hours, he said.

In 1995, he began using conventional medications after the federal government started requiring random drug tests for operators of various commercial and industrial vehicles. He went back to marijuana in March and was suspended when he tested positive during a random drug test. He was also told he would be fired if he tested positive again within a year.

Dunaway said his doctor gave him an oral recommendation for marijuana.

Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the Clinton administration’s drug czar, has said workers under federal jurisdiction cannot use marijuana for medical purposes, regardless of what a doctor recommends.

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