SWOK county officials learn best medical marijuana employment practices

Medical marijuana employment

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - County leaders from around southwest Oklahoma met in Lawton Tuesday to find out what the law says about employees who use medical marijuana.

It's a dilemma for employers and their workers who have a marijuana card. People from county commissioners to court clerks to sheriffs got first-hand information on how to handle their employees who legally use medical marijuana. They learned everything they need to know about hiring and what kinds of jobs employees can and can't do.

At the meeting, county officials learned they are only allowed to prohibit medical marijuana use if the job is what’s called a safety-sensitive role, like law enforcement, firefighting or working on a road crew.

"A lot of our jobs in public safety that the counties do, sheriff’s offices, all the road districts, both road districts east and west, we’re out in the public and we’ve got big equipment, we’ve got big trucks. We just want to try to keep everyone safe on the road, employees as well as taxpayers, and we’ll try to do it legally for everybody,” said Comanche County Commissioner Gail Turner.

What exactly is a safety-sensitive role is up to individual counties. That’s because drug tests right now are not able to detect if a person is under the influence of marijuana, only that they had used it recently.

"The last thing we want to do is restrict people’s rights. But if they are in truly safety-sensitive roles, I think everybody else has the right to make sure they’re not under the influence as well. Until we have a test that does that, detects influence, I don’t think we have a choice but to limit it,” said Dale Frech, Safety Director for the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, who led the meeting.

Frech also gave recommendations on how counties should begin changing policies.

"We’ve got to adapt our policy books and stuff and make sure we’ve got the right policy for our employees because we have a lot of great employees. Some of them will be using medical marijuana for aches and pains, not all of us are young, it is something that will be used so we want to learn how to deal with it appropriately and safely for them, for us and for the public,” Turner said.

Turner said that in Comanche County they’re going to work on updating their policies. Frech suggested counties do that by coming together and viewing each aspect of each job and determining if using medical marijuana for that specific job would be a safety issue.

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