Should Legal Cannabis Use Prohibit Citizens From Holding Public Safety Jobs In Baltimore County?


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BALTIMORE COUNTY - The upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland is forcing municipalities across the state to invent new rules and regulations on how, where, and who can use it.

Baltimore County Council Member Wade Kach raised the issue at a recent council meeting.

Kach asked County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers if a cannabis user would be allowed to work at the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson.

"If someone tests positive for marijuana use, are they eliminated from consideration? What is our policy?" Kach asked.

Rodgers told the councilman that the county is looking at its overall hiring policy to "align ourselves with the state since [consuming marijuana] is no longer an offense."

Council member Todd Crandell added that the state legislature legalized buying and using cannabis, nothing more.

"Employers still have the right to set their own standards," Crandell said.

WYPR reports that Erica Palmisano, press secretary for County Executive Johnny Olszewski, said that the county tests for cannabis when hiring for "safety-sensitive positions," including police, firefighters, and EMS personnel.

Kach's question may seem simple, but it alludes to the difficulties of regulating marijuana testing as it relates to employers. According to the Maryland State Bar Association, "nothing in Maryland law prevents an employer from testing for use of cannabis (for any reason) or taking action against an employee who tests positive for use of cannabis (for any reason)."

While Marylanders agree that employees performing important public safety roles should not be impaired while on the job, current marijuana tests cannot tell if someone is actively impaired or "high."

According to the US Department of Transportation, marijuana may be detected for up to 30 days after consumption based on the employee's use and physical build.

This issue was discussed during debates over legalization in the Maryland General Assembly, where advocates questioned why the legislation does not protect an employee's right to use marijuana.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), asked if it is fair for someone to be fired for consuming marijuana on their own time.

"If it's legal for an adult to consume cannabis products at home, why is it therefore still appropriate that that person can lose their job the following Monday or Tuesday if they go to work, are completely sober, but continue to test positive for the presence of having used cannabis over the weekend?" Armentano asked.

As testing methods for cannabis improve, this issue may resolve itself. In the meantime, Rodgers clarified that anyone who shows up to work high should expect the same treatment as someone showing up to work drunk.

"There's a difference if you show up impaired and literally you are observed to be impaired," Rodgers said.

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