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Federal Workplace Guidelines Won’t Allow Medical Marijuana As A Qualifying Reason For Positive THC Test

Set to publish today, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) updated the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. These changes specifically address medical marijuana use by federal employees and its impact on drug testing results.

As more states legalize marijuana for medical purposes, the conflict between state laws and workplace drug testing policies has become a growing concern. While some may argue that medical marijuana use should be allowed for federal employees in states where it is legal, the new guidelines make it clear that this is not the case.

Background on Federal Regulations

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was enacted in 1970 and has served as the basis for federal drug policy ever since. Under this act, drugs are categorized into different schedules based on their potential for abuse and medical use. Schedule I is reserved for substances that have a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical purpose.

Marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug since the CSA was enacted, despite numerous states legalizing it for medical purposes. This classification has led to conflicts between state and federal laws and has resulted in restrictions on medical marijuana use for federal employees.

Changes to SAMHSA Guidelines

Today, SAMHSA announced updates to its Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. These new guidelines specifically address medical marijuana use by federal employees and aim to provide clarity on how it should be handled in the workplace.

The updated guidelines state, “The Department revised Section 13.5(c)(2) to clarify that passive exposure to any drug (not just marijuana smoke) and ingestion of food products containing a drug (not just those containing marijuana) are not acceptable medical explanations for a positive drug test. The Department clarified existing item ii regarding ingestion of food products containing a drug and added a new item iii. Although an increased number of States have authorized marijuana use for medical purposes, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance and cannot be prescribed under Federal law. For purposes of the Federal drug free workplace program, Federal law pertaining to marijuana control supersedes State marijuana laws, so a physician’s recommendation for marijuana use is not a legitimate medical explanation for a positive marijuana test.”

You can find the updated guidelines on page 24 in the PDF below.

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This means that even if an employee has a valid medical marijuana card, they may still be subject to disciplinary action for testing positive for THC in a drug test.

Despite the growing acceptance and legalization of medical marijuana, federal workplace policies have remained restrictive. With 38 states having some form of legalized medical marijuana program, it may seem outdated for federal employees to be barred from its use.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has officially recommended that cannabis be reclassified from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule II substance. This means that it would be recognized as having some potential medical use, potentially paving the way for more lenient workplace policies.

It is important to consider that federal employees should have the same rights as any other citizen regarding their medical treatment, and denying them access to natural medicine goes against this principle. Working for the government should not automatically disqualify someone from using a medicine that has been legalized in many states.

Furthermore, the use of medical marijuana should not be viewed as a liability or hindrance for employees. In fact, it could potentially be seen as a way to manage conditions and improve overall well-being, leading to more productive and satisfied workers.

Overall, while the new federal workplace guidelines may seem restrictive for medical marijuana users, it is crucial to understand the legal and regulatory background that has led to these policies.

However, with growing acceptance and recognition of the potential benefits of medical marijuana, it may be time for federal regulations to catch up and allow employees to use this natural medicine if they so choose. After all, health and well-being should always be a priority, regardless of one’s employment status.


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