A CLOSER LOOK: Employees with ‘safety sensitive’ jobs prohibited from using medical marijuana

A Closer Look
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ARKANSAS (KNWA) — If you work a job that is responsible for the lives of others, you are likely prohibited from using medical marijuana.

State law allows employers to prohibit employees from using medical marijuana if that employee works a job that is a “safety sensitive position.”

“[The amendment] is providing the interpretation or option for employers, because ultimately it’s a decision each employer will have to make,” said Scott Hardin, communications director for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Amendment 98, titled ‘Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment,’ states that a “safety sensitive position” is described as any position involving a “safety sensitive function” in accordance with federal regulations that govern drug and alcohol testing adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation or any other rules, guidelines or regulations adopted by other federal and state agencies.

“Safety sensitive position” also means a position that an employer designates as a position that would become a threat to someone’s health or safety when performed by an employee who is under the influence. Such positions are those that involve the following activities:

  • Carrying a firearm
  • Performing life-threatening procedures
  • Working with confidential information or documents pertaining to criminal investigations
  • Working with hazardous or flammable materials, controlled substances, food or medicine

EMTs, firefighters and police officers are examples of “safety sensitive positions,” Hardin said.

The amendment states that “safety sensitive positions” also include positions in which “a lapse of attention could result in injury, illness, or death, including without limitation a position that includes the operating, repairing, maintaining, or monitoring of heavy equipment, machinery, aircraft, motorized watercraft, or motor vehicles as part of the job duties.”

John Wesley Hall Jr., a Little Rock attorney who specializes in medical marijuana regulation and licensing, said while it’s up to employers to decide whether or not to prohibit employees in “safety sensitive positions” from using medical marijuana, he questions if that employer mandate extends to the employee’s off-hours.

“The psychoactive properties are only active for about an hour, so if you took it at night to help you sleep, it wouldn’t affect you in the morning. You wouldn’t be under the influence, but you would still test positive on a drug test,” Hall said.

Hardin said many questions concerning medical marijuana, including off-hours usage, have yet to be answered.

“That would be a decision between the employer and employee and potentially a legal issue to be considered,” Hardin said. “It does leave several open questions as to where exactly it applies. This is a new industry for Arkansas, [so] there will be some additional questions to be answered.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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