Lawmakers want to protect Federal Employees who use Marijuana

Lawmakers want to protect Federal Employees who use Marijuana

By Christopher A. Parrella,  J.D., CPC, CHC, CPCO

Last month, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis signed a bill into law that allows patients who receive medical marijuana from their doctors to smoke it legally. SB 182 ends a two-year prohibition on smokable marijuana. 

Florida is the latest state to pass a bill related to the use of marijuana, be it for medical or recreational purposes. Despite the uptick in state approval, marijuana use, in any form, is still considered to be illegal under federal law. It is considered a Schedule 1 drug which is considered to have high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns. Other narcotics such as Heroin, LSD, and cocaine also are Schedule 1 drugs

Florida Senator Charlie Christ is looking to change that. Last month, he introduced HR 1687, a bill “to remove limitations on federal employment for an individual legally using marijuana under the law of the state in which the individual resides, and for other purposes.

Dubbed “The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws,” the bill has bipartisan support with nine co-sponsors.

It would prohibit marijuana drug testing “from being used as the sole factor to deny or terminate federal employment for civilian positions at executive branch agencies if the individual is in compliance with the marijuana laws in their state of residence.”

The bill does not prohibit testing if an individual is believed to be impaired at work and does not apply to those working in or seeking a position that requires top-secret clearance.

Currently, those working within the federal government are prohibited from using medical marijuana, even if it is legal in their home state. Those who test positive can be denied employment and those caught can be fired.

“For federal employees complying with state cannabis law, they shouldn’t have to choose between a proven treatment and their job,” Christ said, in introducing the legislation. “This conflict, between medical care and maintaining employment, needs to be resolved.”

Many federal employees are veterans who use medical marijuana to treat their service-related injuries or illnesses.

Medical cannabis is legal in 33 states and in the District of Columbia, as well as in four U.S. territories. The proposed legislation has the support of a number of organizations including Americans for Safe Access, Florida for Care, Marijuana Policy Project, National Cannabis Industry Association, NORML, Veterans Cannabis Coalition and Weed for Warriors Project.

This isn’t the first time Christ has introduced such legislation. He introduced a similar bill last year that did not make it out of Congress.

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