D.C. mayor expands cannabis protections for workers
Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an order last week clarifying legal protections for certain District employees who consume cannabis while away from the job. The new rules apply to all District government agencies under the direct administrative authority of the mayor.
Under the rules, many would-be employees will no longer face pre-employment drug screenings. The order states: “Employees who are not in a safety-sensitive position will be tested for drugs only upon reasonable suspicion, or after an accident or incident. Thus, those employees not in safety-sensitive positions may find that they can use cannabis, with or without a medical card authorizing [it], so long as they are not impaired at work.”
Commenting on the policy change, NORML NE Political Associate Tyler McFadden said: “Employment protections are critical to ensure that law-abiding adults are not unduly discriminated against in their efforts to be productive members of society solely because of their use of cannabis while off the job. This order provides clarity and guidance to employers and peace of mind to the employees who work in the District of Columbia.”
For employees seeking safety-sensitive positions, the order states that those who test positive for the presence of cannabis on a pre-employment drug screen may be “disqualified.” In some cases, however, the order states that those who initially test positive for cannabis may receive a “second opportunity to take a drug test at least two weeks after the initial test results have been provided.”
In cases involving post-accident testing, a positive drug test result for cannabis metabolites will continue to be viewed as presumptive evidence of impairment. However, this “presumption may be overcome if the employee presents clear or convincing evidence that he or she was not impaired at the time of the test.”
Because THC’s primary metabolite, carboxy-THC is lipid soluble, residual levels of the compound may persist in urine for weeks or even months post-abstinence. According to the US Department of Justice, a positive urine test screen for drug metabolites “does not indicate abuse or addiction, recency, frequency, or amount of use; or impairment.”
Earlier this month, members of the DC City Council approved Act Number A23-0114: The Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Temporary Amendment Act, which seeks to impose explicit protections for medical cannabis patients against workplace discrimination.
Utah officials revise medical cannabis law
Under the revised plan, the distribution of medical cannabis products will no longer be overseen by public health regulators. Rather, the state will license as many as 14 private entities throughout the state to dispense cannabis products to authorized patients. The new legislation also permits courier services to engage in cannabis deliveries to those patients who either reside a significant distance from an operating dispensary or who are homebound.
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert expressed support for the changes, stating, “The bill will help provide safe and efficient access to an important medical option for patients while also taking public safety into consideration.”
This is the second time in less than a year that lawmakers have convened a special session to amend the state’s medical cannabis law. Voters in 2018 approved Proposition 2, which legalized the use and dispensing of medical cannabis to qualified patients. Shortly thereafter, lawmakers held a special legislative session where they voted to repeal and replace the initiative law with their own legislation. Specifically, lawmakers eliminated patients’ option to home cultivate cannabis, narrowed the list of qualifying conditions, and placed additional restrictions on the dispensing of cannabis products, among other changes.
Regulators want to amend rules for clinical cannabis testing
The Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration have acknowledged that existing federal regulations hinder clinical cannabis research, and are suggesting that scientists be able to legally access cannabis products from sources other than the University of Mississippi – the only federally licensed supply source of marijuana for research purposes.
In a letter to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), first obtained by Politico, the officials acknowledge that the existing monopoly on federally authorized cannabis production limits “the diversity of [cannabis] products and formulations available to researchers, [thus] slowing the development of cannabis-based medications.” The letter’s authors suggest both “licensing additional entities to supply cannabis,” as well as “enabling researchers holding Schedule I licenses for marijuana to obtain products from state authorized dispensaries.”
They conclude that the current regulations governing the clinical study of cannabis, along with the Schedule I status of marijuana under federal law, create “significant administrative cost challenges that slow this research and may deter scientists from pursuing cannabis research altogether.”
Since 2016, officials at the DEA have promised to license additional, private producers of research-grade cannabis. As of yet however, the DEA has failed to take action on more than 30 applications pending before it, and the agency has yet to provide a timeline as to when they intend to do so.
Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.