Tulsa City Councilor Wants Change in Cannabis Policy
KTUL-Tulsa - January 16, 2023 6:49 am
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — A Tulsa city councilor wants the city to treat cannabis like a normal prescription medication.
Right now, depending on your job, you could be fired if you test positive for it.
Since 2019, two firefighters have been fired for testing positive for medical cannabis. Councilor Grant Miller wants to change the policy that led to that action.
“My proposal is that we treat it the same as any other prescription medication,” said Miller, talking about medical cannabis, which when the state law passed a few years ago, it basically was treated like any other drug.
“The original statute said you can’t do anything to anybody, you can’t fire them, discipline them, refuse to hire them if they use medical marijuana,” said attorney Jay Ramey who specializes in criminal defense and cases involving marijuana.
But it wasn’t long before officials started adding exceptions to the law, and pretty soon it could be prohibited for use if your job was considered “safety sensitive.”
“Safety sensitive means any job that includes tasks or duties that the employer reasonably believes could affect the safety and health of the employee performing the task or others including but not limited to the following, and there’s a big, long list of things,” he said.
One of the jobs on that long list is firefighter.
“Unfortunately the city of Tulsa’s policies towards medical cannabis are very outdated,” said Matt Lay, president of the Tulsa Firefighters Union.
“We’ve had two cases in the last three years where firefighters were actually terminated for testing positive for medical cannabis and through different vehicles both of those firefighters have been returned to full duty,” he said.
But the process from fired to rehired was anything but easy.
“It was incredibly disruptive not just to the fire department, but obviously those firefighters, their families, and the expense of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, back pay, wages,” he said.
Councilor Miller is hoping a change in city policy will simply allow employees to use medicinal cannabis as medicinal cannabis.
“Right now what we’re telling them is, if you get injured doing the job that we ask you to do then you’ve got two choices, deal with the pain that we caused you or take the chance to get hooked on a prescription opioid and potentially end up as another statistic that we’ve seen across the country,” he said.
“Why certain prescriptions and certain products can be tolerated but something like this that’s much more minor in it’s impact and potential impacts on your health versus opioids and things like that that are much more addictive and harmful,” said Lay.
A push to fully recognize the substance for medicinal purposes and leave behind the historical baggage of being an illegal substance.
“I think at this point in our country as a whole accepts the fact that medicinal marijuana is an alternative pain medication,” said Miller.