Proposed Bill Offers Mantle of Protection for Federal Workers Who Use Weed
The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act restricts federal government agencies from firing an employee or denying employment on the basis of a failed drug test
A proposed bill introduced by Florida and Georgia representatives Charlie Crist and Drew Ferguson aims to provide protection for federal workers who consume marijuana within the limits of the law.
Florida legalized the medical use of marijuana in 2016 while Georgia enacted a similar law earlier in 2015. California just recently legalized recreational use of recreational marijuana, although it was already available to purchase for those with medical use needs.
The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act restricts federal government agencies from firing an employee or denying employment on the basis of a failed drug test. However, federal agencies requiring the highest levels of security are exempted as long as they can show probable cause for job impairment as a result of the use of marijuana.
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Taking Advantage of the Opportunity
The bill was crafted by Crist after noticing a large number of his veteran constituents who were denied employment in federal agencies. They later found out that 1 in 5 veterans in his district was enrolled in medical cannabis programs. He came to the conclusion that the federal government is missing out on valuable opportunities to hire the expertise and experience of these veterans just because of failed drug tests.
In fact, the Veterans Affairs Department has changed its tune when it comes to marijuana consumption for medical benefits. This topic used to be taboo for the VA doctors and veterans due to veterans being rejected because of their admittance regarding marijuana use.
Talking with the Authority
Now, personnel of the Veterans Health Administration is encouraged to discuss with patients how medicinal marijuana can improving their conditions. This allows physicians a more complete view of providing holistic care, especially if marijuana interacts with the maintenance medication the patient is taking.
The bipartisan bill would also cover federal workers who are assigned to states where medical marijuana is prohibited as long as they can prove that they are residents of a state where private use is legalized. To date, there are 30 states in the US that have already legalized medical marijuana. That covers more than 200 million citizens under this program.
The states that have legalized recreational marijuana use are Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington D.C., 9 in total.
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The bill is a major shift in policy considering that federal workers still face the threat of termination under current policies if they fail the drug test for cannabis use. A memorandum issued by the Office of Personnel Management reminded employees that even if marijuana use is legal in their states, marijuana is still illegal since it’s categorized as Schedule I under the Controlled Substance Act.
It should be noted, however, that the bill doesn’t imply that federal workers can go to work high. In fact, the bill makes it clear that under no circumstances can employees be under the influence while on the clock. Any employee who is caught high while at work will face disciplinary action.
This bill was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for deliberations after Crist introduced it in Congress on July 26. Right now, the House of Representatives is on recess. The legislators will continue reviewing the bill when Congress resumes its session towards the end of the year.