Teachers using medical marijuana causes policy debate

Reporter: Erika Jackson
Published: Updated:
File Photo: U.S. Air Force photo

Legal dispensaries are popping up across the state, but what if your child’s teacher is using medical marijuana?

Susanne Drier of Port Charlotte says she has concerns, “because you have to watch all of these kids and everything I’m not sure that you’re in the right frame of mind.”

That’s why the Charlotte County School Board is working on a new policy which would include staff and faculty, meaning teachers to bus drivers to administrative staff.

The question: Should Charlotte County school district employees be allowed to use medical marijuana while on the job?

Parent Michelle Underwood says it’s just like any other medication that a teacher could be taking, “as long as they have their official medical marijuana card and they are not driving it’s perfectly fine”

Charlotte’s school board discussed the first draft of its employee medical marijuana policy during a workshop Tuesday.

The medical marijuana provision mirrors the district’s current policy for other controlled substances, requiring all employees to report if they are under the influence of medical or recreational marijuana upon arrival to work.

If a supervisor learns an employee is using the drug illegally, they must report it to the school resource officer.

“If they need to use it that’s fine with me,” said Danielle Pacheco of Port Charlotte. “But not during school hours.”

The policy bans any employee from operating heavy machinery or vehicles, like a school bus or golf cart, while using the drug.

Charlotte County government workers and Punta Gorda city employees are not allowed to work while using medical marijuana since it’s still illegal under federal law.

However, parents remain split on this hot-button issue.

The school board will review a revised draft of the policy, and will vote on its approval at its meeting in July.


Punta Gorda city policy:

At this time the City still recognizes that the Federal government has not yet approved marijuana use for any purpose, medical or recreational. As such, we still treat it as an illicit substance that falls under the City’s Drug Free Workplace provisions, regardless of whether or not the employee has a prescription. The City’s policy at this time calls for the following actions, regardless of the drug when an employee tests positive for a controlled substance, and does not have a prescription for a licensed medical practitioner:

  1. If an employee tests positive for a controlled substance, and do not have a prescription for the drug, they are required to enter into a Last Chance agreement that extends for the life of employment. This agreement requires that the employee have twelve counseling sessions with a licensed mental health counselor over the upcoming year for illicit drug use, with written documentation of each visit. Any requirements that the mental health professional imposes are also mandatory components of the Last Chance agreement. They are also subject to random drug testing over the following twelve months, and for which they are financially responsible;
  2. If the employee holds a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), they will fall under the provisions of the Last Chance agreement; and, they lose their CDL, the result of which they are no longer allowed to operate City vehicles that require a CDL. If such is the case, they will likely be demoted to a lower pay grade because a CDL is required for their position;
  3. If the employee refuses to enter into a Last Chance agreement, or fails to fully comply with all of the above provisions is subject to immediate dismissal.

The City is working through the current policy to see if it is advisable to make changes based on the State’s legislative action with respect to marijuana.

Charlotte County

According to Charlotte County spokesman Brian Gleason: “Charlotte County Human Resources policy does not allow employees to use medical marijuana because it is still illegal under federal law.”

City of Naples

“Any medication that could impair you whether it is legal, prescription, or illegal you are not able to work. Or cause impairment to do your work duties then you cannot come to work. This includes medical marijuana”

Collier County Public School District

According to Chad Oliver, Executive Director, Communications & Community Engagement: “We are a drug free workplace governed by policy 3124 and policy 3161 regarding fitness for duty. Staff members must be able to perform the essential functions of their job with or without reasonable accommodations.”

School District of Lee County

According to the district Employee Handbook:

“Use of Legal Drugs: The use of legal drugs, that is, drugs prescribed by licensed physicians for a specific medical purpose, may be necessary at times. However, such drugs can and often do have a direct impact on the vigilance, judgment and/or coordination of the employee and caution should be used so as to not affect the employee’s job performance or his/her ability to work in a safe and efficient manner. This is particularly true in safety-sensitive assignments involving motor vehicles or any machinery. The use of legal drugs for a purpose other than one specified by a licensed medical physician may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

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