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Business in brief: Court rules firms can fire pot users

Fri., Jan. 25, 2008

Employers can fire workers who use medical marijuana even if it was legally recommended by a doctor, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday, dealing the state another setback in its standoff with federal law enforcement.

The high court upheld a small Sacramento telecommunications company’s firing of a man who flunked a company-ordered drug test. Gary Ross held a medical marijuana card authorizing him to use the drug to treat a back injury sustained while serving in the Air Force.

The company, Ragingwire Inc., argued that it rightfully fired Ross because all marijuana use is illegal under federal law, which does not recognize the medical marijuana laws in California and 11 other states.

The justices upheld that argument in a 5-2 decision.

Eleven states have adopted medical-marijuana laws similar to California’s: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.


Clear Channel to sell stations

Clear Channel Communications Inc. has agreed to sell radio stations in 42 markets – including Yakima and Tri-Cities in Washington, and Boise and Twin Falls in Idaho – as part of a deal reached with federal regulators that will allow the company to complete its sale to private investors.

Word that the Federal Communications Commission had unanimously approved the $19.5 billion buyout surfaced two weeks ago. The agency released details Thursday.

Clear Channel, the nation’s largest radio station owner, is being taken private by a group led by Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Bain Capital Partners LLC for $39.20 a share. Shareholders already have approved the transaction.

Clear Channel must transfer control of 48 stations, located in the nation’s 100 largest markets, to a divestiture trust so that the new owners will comply with FCC ownership limits.


Newspaper Web audience grows

U.S. newspapers’ online audiences grew about 6 percent last year, an industry group reported Thursday, a rare bit of good news for an industry struggling to adapt as readers and advertising dollars continue to migrate online.

Web sites run by newspapers had an average of 60 million unique U.S. visitors per month in 2007, up from 56.4 million the year before, according to data released by Newspaper Association of America and compiled by Nielsen Online, a Web audience measurement agency owned by The Nielsen Co.

Due to the growth in the total online audience, however, the online reach of newspapers grew somewhat less, with 38 percent of all active users visiting newspaper sites last year, up from 36 percent in 2006.

Many newspapers have been adding online features such as video, blogs and more in an effort to compete with other outlets of information, including portals like Yahoo Inc.

– From wire reports


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