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Editorial: Employers need final say on workers’ use of medical pot

When you go to urgent care, you should be able to be confident the medical professionals treating you aren’t high.

When you drive down the highway, you should expect a truck driver to be sober. A drug-free workplace is what most people expect – including employers.

And that’s what Presbyterian Healthcare Services says it is committed to and is required to provide under federal law.

So, when a nurse practitioner started working in one of its centers and tested positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana, she was fired, even though she provided documentation that she is authorized to use medical marijuana to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Donna Smith’s attorney says she did not possess or use marijuana at work and had excellent performance reviews at previous jobs.

Smith is suing, claiming PHS violated her civil rights under state law because she was fired as a result of a physical or mental condition.

New Mexico’s medical marijuana statute says the law does not protect patients from civil or criminal penalties for use or possessing pot in the workplace. And medical marijuana use is illegal under federal law, although states that allow it aren’t hassled by the U.S. Justice Department.

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Smith’s lawsuit claims the Presbyterian official who fired her said company policy prohibits medical providers from being medical marijuana patients. A PHS spokeswoman said Smith was fired out of concern for patient safety and that “Presbyterian has a mandate under federal law to provide a drug-free workplace.” Presbyterian isn’t accusing Smith of being high; it simply has a drug-free policy.

It’s reasonable companies want workers and customers to be safe, so companies should be able to set work policies based on workplace and insurer’s demands.

Kudos to Presbyterian for taking up this fight.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.


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