Charlie Crist Goes to Bat for Veterans Using Medical Marijuana Who Apply for Federal Jobs

By Sunshine State News

With a recent poll from the American Legion showing one in five veterans uses marijuana for medicinal purposes, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., wants to ensure they can still apply for executive branch jobs in the federal government.

This week, Crist and U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., showcased the “Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act” which the freshman Florida Democrat showcased at an event in Largo.

According to Crist’s office, the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program, which was established in 1986, “made it a condition for employment that all civilian employees at executive branch agencies be prohibited from using federally illegal substances on or off duty” but the congressmen insist that needs to be changed as a majority of states now allowing some form of medical marijuana

“Federal employees can be denied employment or terminated due to testing positive for marijuana metabolites, even if their use is in compliance with state law,” Crist’s office noted. “This conflict between state and federal laws limits treatment options and federal employment opportunities, particularly impacting veterans who comprise approximately one-third of the federal workforce and whose medical cannabis use to treat chronic pain and PTSD has been found to be double the rate of the general public. A recent American Legion poll found that one in five veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition.”

Crist’s and Ferguson’s proposal would stop “marijuana metabolite testing from being used as the sole factor to deny or terminate federal employment for civilian positions at executive branch agencies if the individual is in compliance with the marijuana laws in their state of residence” and “extends to an individual’s past, private use of cannabis, and does not prohibit probable cause testing if an individual is believed to be impaired at work.” The bill would not impact people applying for positions needing top-secret clearance.

On Wednesday, Crist weighed in on why he was championing the bill.

“Medical marijuana is an issue of compassion, and in the veterans’ community, access is even more important as more and more veterans are turning to cannabis to address chronic pain and PTSD. At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of veterans; however, private cannabis use even in states that have legalized medical marijuana is prohibited in these positions,” said Crist. “Our bipartisan bill would protect federal employment for those in compliance with their state’s cannabis laws. Because our veterans shouldn’t have to choose between treatment options or job opportunities.”

“American workers are reaping the benefits of our growing economy, but some workers are finding themselves caught between federal and state laws governing medical marijuana use. No one should face unemployment for choosing to pursue private legal medical treatment,” Ferguson said. “This past spring, Georgia expanded the state’s CBD oil registry, permitting patients with PTSD or chronic pain, many of whom are veterans, to legally use CBD oil with a physician’s authorization. The HB 65 expansion would allow otherwise able-bodied adult Georgians to legally use CBD oil, but current federal law would also allow these employees to be fired from federal jobs in the case of a failed drug test. That’s why our legislation will help federal workers, one-third of whom are veterans, to stay in their jobs without being forced to forgo legal medical treatment options.”

The bill has the support of Americans for Safe Access, Florida for Care, Marijuana Policy Project, National Cannabis Industry Association, NORML, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, and Weed for Warriors Project.

“The time for the federal government to end the practice of arbitrarily discriminating against current and potential workers for marijuana consumption is now,” said Justin Strekal, the political director of NORML.“With 46 states having reformed their cannabis laws to be in direct conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act, individuals acting in compliance with state law should not be denied the opportunity to serve their country as public servants. We sincerely appreciate the leadership of Congressman Charlie Crist and Congressman Drew Ferguson.”

Crist introduced the bill at the end of last month. So far, Ferguson is the only cosponsor and there is no version of the legislation over in the U.S. Senate. The bill was sent to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.