The primary time Allison Enright, a Brevard County trainer, fell at work, docs prescribed her opioids to take care of the ache.
Through the yr that adopted her fall, she noticed her physique begin to deteriorate. When the prescription medicines and bodily remedy didn’t work, a employees’ compensation physician really helpful she use medical marijuana to keep away from utilizing a wheelchair.
She describes the drug as her miracle.
The second time the Area Coast Junior and Senior Excessive trainer fell at work – a pupil pushed her within the hallway through the pandemic – she disclosed beneath her employees’ compensation plan that she used medical hashish for ache administration.
A 3-2 vote by the Brevard County Faculty Board fired her after a brief administrative go away. She had been educating and dealing in colleges for greater than 30 years.
“I don’t know that I ever would have tried medical marijuana had I spotted this was the consequence.”
Laws to guard Florida public staff like Enright has stalled this session, leaving a disconnect between restrictive federal legal guidelines and permissive native legal guidelines. Democratic representatives proposed Home Invoice 335 to ban employers from taking motion in opposition to certified medical marijuana sufferers, was referred to 4 subcommittees in February and hasn’t been heard since.
State, federal guidelines conflict
Underneath present legal guidelines, businesses that obtain federal funding, similar to faculty techniques, default to nationwide legal guidelines that don’t enable medical marijuana use.
Enright isn’t alone in her termination. In March, town of West Palm Seashore fired its deputy chief of knowledge expertise after testing constructive for marijuana throughout a spot take a look at. In September 2020, a highschool administrator in Marion County was fired after a failed drug take a look at after being placed on go away.
Each used marijuana for medical functions. Neither mentioned they had been excessive on the job.
Workers taking a drug take a look at have 24-48 hours to offer a legitimate rationalization for why opioids are of their system. This isn’t the case for marijuana as a result of it’s nationally thought-about a Schedule 1 drug, outlined as having “no at present accepted medical use and a excessive potential for abuse.” Different Schedule 1 medicine embrace heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote.
Rep. Nicholas Duran, D-Miami, proposed the invoice to guard sufferers who he described as inside their constitutional proper to ingest medical hashish, as determined by 71% of Florida voters in a 2016 constitutional modification.
“This invoice actually simply supplies the sort of protections that present and acknowledge that we do have medical marijuana legal guidelines within the state of Florida,” Duran mentioned. “We deal with it as medication, and we have to acknowledge that.”
The primary invoice that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signed into regulation in 2019 allowed smokable medical marijuana, however the Legislature has not adopted with additional expansions.
Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Palm Seashore, sponsored related laws within the 2020 session. She narrowed the scope from all staff to public staff when proposing Senate Invoice 692 this yr, hoping to offer higher pointers for each staff and employers. The invoice died in its first committee.
“There’s a horrible historical past of attempting to move payments like this which is why medical marijuana is barely allowed due to the residents initiative,” she mentioned.
THC, the chemical in marijuana chargeable for the excessive feeling, was a extremely contested matter throughout this legislative session. Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, filed a invoice to cap the quantity of THC present in every marijuana flower.
“I’m not attempting to take individuals’s medication away,” he mentioned.
The invoice has since died following DeSantis’ assertion that he was not endorsing such limits, however it is without doubt one of the few targeted on the drug that gained traction.
“I feel that we have highlighted some issues that perhaps [the Department of Agriculture] ought to work on, or perhaps a future legislature will see this invoice, and one other kind sooner or later,” Roach mentioned of the invoice.
State guidelines do not defend medical marijuana customers from job loss
Florida’s medical marijuana regulation says that the use by a qualifying affected person “isn’t topic to prison or civil liabilities or sanctions.” Nevertheless, Michael Minardi, a Tampa legal professional who makes a speciality of hashish crimes, sees job loss as a sanction.
“In the event that they’re going to deal with this like a prescription, then it ought to be handled like a prescription in all features of it,” he mentioned.
Minardi cited a current case in Connecticut for instance of this problem. The Connecticut worker, a metropolis firefighter, examined constructive for marijuana – for which he had a allow – on a random drug take a look at. He challenged it on the grounds of the Individuals with Disabilities Act and state medical marijuana legal guidelines, however the courts defaulted to federal rules.
Josephine Cannella-Krehl of Tallahassee, a licensed scientific social employee, believes that being fired on this premise is medical discrimination. Previous to the 2016 legalization, she labored in hospice settings when she discovered that her sufferers had been secretly utilizing it and reaping its advantages, however had been afraid to inform their docs.
She now runs MMJ Data, the place she counsels sufferers navigating Florida’s medical hashish program.
“On the coronary heart of it for me is to guard our individuals from prohibition,” she mentioned.
Whereas legislators and activists will preserve pushing for this in future periods, many had been involved a majority-Republican legislature won’t develop protections.
“We will’t discriminate in opposition to individuals for different forms of drugs that they’re taking or different disabilities that they’ve, so why ought to marijuana be handled any in another way?” mentioned Rep. Michael Grieco, D-North Bay Village, a co-sponsor of the Home invoice.
Advocates hope to legalize leisure pot
Taking away punishment for medical marijuana use is simply the beginning of the place marijuana laws ought to head, mentioned Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando. Advocates hope to legalize leisure use, as not too long ago handed by 4 states in two months together with New York.
“I simply stand fully in opposition to the criminalization of marijuana,” Eskamani mentioned. “I feel that we’ve seen for generations a hard-on-crime mentality with marijuana that has locked up extra Black and brown individuals though nearly all of customers of marijuana in the present day are white people.”
This limiting mentality will proceed to have an effect on those that observe state legal guidelines, similar to Brevard County trainer Enright. Vanessa Skipper, the vp of the Brevard Federation of Lecturers, says step one is to elect individuals at a state and federal degree who will observe by with what constituents have already determined.
Skipper cited college students being allowed to ingest medical hashish as a motive for this to increase to lecturers.
“Change occurs as a result of an entity or particular person decides, hey, we’re going to be the primary to do that, we all know that is the best factor to do,” Skipper mentioned.
Jodi James, government director of advocacy group Florida Hashish Motion Community, found marijuana as a medication to get off of narcotics after a critical harm. She has labored with legislators together with the sponsors of this yr’s payments for the previous decade to advance hashish coverage.
“There’s only a few locations within the fashionable world the place you possibly can witness miracles, however you are able to do that within the medical marijuana motion,” James mentioned.
This story was produced by Recent Take Florida, a information service of the College of Florida School of Journalism and Communications.