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|Inside look, records request, pot pardons, jury watch, 2020 recount, discrimination complaint, and a playoff run begins (hopefully). It's Friday.|
Spotlight PA's months-long investigation into spotty employment protections for Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients began with a single email.
Philadelphia Gas Works employee Todd Douglas reached out to say that he had failed a random drug test at work and was faced with a troubling choice: Give up the medicine he takes for pain or risk losing his job.
Douglas — who works with computers, not live gas, and says he's never been high on the job — fought the test and won. Others weren't so lucky.
Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how reporter Ed Mahon tracked down other workers who were fired or demoted over medical marijuana.
THE CONTEXT: Mahon conducted interviews with advocates and attorneys, analyzed about 20 medical marijuana employment cases, filed dozens of open records requests, and reviewed thousands of pages of public records.
The following trends emerged:
- Employees can be punished even without failing a drug test.
- Attorneys for workers and businesses often fight over the potential safety risks of certain jobs.
- Federal drug testing rules are frequently unclear or in dispute.
- And fired workers can run into other problems, such as trouble collecting their unemployment benefits.
The work to better understand how decisions made by lawmakers in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., are affecting hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients across the state is ongoing.
Reach out with tips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-421-2518.
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE|
"As soon as she reported the mold test to Rep. Davanzo, she received a very negative reaction and noticed a change in their working relationship. She was told about a week later that she was fired due to their clash in personalities."
—A lawyer for Marcel Ingram of Westmoreland County who has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus claiming she was fired for voicing concerns about mold in an office
|The view from the first tee at Penn State's White Course golf course, courtesy of Gregory P. Here's an updated fall foliage forecast for your neck of the woods. Have a cool image to share? Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.|
|BALLOT RULING: Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records, in response to a filing by 2020 election deniers, says mail ballots and signed return envelopes sought in Lancaster County are public under Act 77, the state's no-excuse mail-voting law, per LNP (paywalled). The county has 30 days to appeal. If upheld and applied statewide, the decision could open the door to similar requests on a much larger scale. |
PARDON POWER: President Joe Biden says he will pardon all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession in what advocates hope is a step toward federal decriminalization, CNN reports. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf's Marijuana Pardon Project saw thousands of people with minor, nonviolent marijuana criminal convictions apply for state-level pardons. Here's what to do if you missed out.
GRAND JURY: The grand jury investigating the death of Jim Rogers — who died after he was repeatedly tased by Pittsburgh police investigating a bike theft — has concluded its review of the case. TribLIVE reports it wasn't immediately clear whether the jury recommended charges for any of the 13 police officers on the scene. DA Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said jurors "were not happy with the conduct they saw."
2020 COUNT: Lycoming County officials have voted to do a hand-count of ballots from the 2020 presidential election, WVIA reports. Votes from the 2020 race for state attorney general will also be recounted starting Jan. 9. The county's director of elections declined to comment. Two Republican county commissioners voted for the hand-count while a Democratic commissioner voted against it.
FORMAL FILING: The ACLU of Pennsylvania alleges that the Central Bucks School District is discriminating against LGBTQ students and violating Title IX and 14th Amendment protections, WHYY reports. The complaint, filed with federal authorities, says school officials there have created a hostile environment through the adoption of discriminatory practices and policies targeting LGBTQ children.
KENNYWOOD CASE: Police say a 15-year-old is facing charges in connection with last month's shooting at Kennywood amusement park near Pittsburgh, WTAE reports. Three people were wounded. All are recovering from their injuries. It remains unclear how a gun got into the park.
ON STRIKE: Production and ad staff at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are on strike after losing their health coverage, saying the paper's owners have refused to bargain in good faith. There were no hard copies of the paper on Thursday. Reporters are withholding their bylines in a show of support.
FAULT LINE: The Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line is an ancient geological feature and a "near-perfect boundary between left-trending and right-trending areas" in metro Philly politics, per @PAMapper.
WILD CARD: The Philadelphia Phillies are in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and begin their three-game Wild Card series against the Cardinals at 2 p.m. ET today. WHYY has your "Rally for Red October" guide.
SCARE MINE: An "abandoned" coal mine near Pittsburgh is being converted into a haunted house for Halloween, per TribLIVE. "We play off your natural phobias here, so we're talking rats, bats, and spiders," an organizer said.
Unscramble and send your answer to email@example.com. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted
A I L R C L E I B N
Yesterday's answer: Breakdown
Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Cathy B., Irene R., Jill K., Ed M., Patricia M., David S., Bruce B., Samantha S., Beth T., Ken S., Barbara F., Mike B., Wendy A., Ted W., James S., Elaine C., Becky C., Greg V., Jill M., Susan N.-Z., Al M., Mark O., Brandie K., Nola D., Michelle T., Chris M., John F., Joel S., Kimberly D., Kevin M., John A., Deb N., John B., Eugene M., Janice H., Daniel M., Marty M., Antoinette F., Kim C., Chuck M., George S., Don H., Nancy S., Jody A., Kerri G., Karen W., Stanley J., Doris T., Fred O., Susan D., Judith D., Eddy Z., Dianne K., Sharon J.-B., Margaret Mary H., Tish M., Bill S., Martha D., James B., Fred H., Cynthia R., Moon M., Mary Jo J., Tom O., John P., John H., Starr B., and Donna D.