Employees may have finally seen a reprieve in the battle between federal and state cannabis law after a Nevada judge overturned a Las Vegas Police Department ban on marijuana consumption among its staff. Although more than two dozen states have passed either medical or recreational cannabis legislation, federal law still classifies it as a Schedule I drug. That may change in the near future. Meanwhile, employees living in legal cannabis markets often find themselves penalized by their bosses for consuming cannabis during personal hours.
According to a ruling by a Las Vegas district judge, a former LVPD officer should not have faced the threat of losing his job after he failed a THC test. Former officer Stuart Bowman resigned in lieu of being fired after off-duty cannabis use led to a failed drug test. He then sued the LAPD arguing that he shouldn’t be penalized for indulging in state-legal activities during his private time, and that the LVPD’s zero-tolerance policy for cannabis is untenable. Judge Kathleen Delaney agreed, ruling that the police department’s zero-tolerance cannabis policy was indeed untenable.
Since state law prohibits discriminating against staff who engage in state-legal cannabis use during their non-working hours, she said the department’s penalties against the former officer were against the law. As such, she instructed the LVPD to grant him back pay, cover his legal fees and put him back on the force.
However, the police department’s lawyers argued that the department had the right to terminate Bowman, citing a separate statute that says that public and private employers can prohibit the use of both legal and illicit drugs via workplace policies. Additionally, they mentioned a case in Colorado that saw the court uphold the decision to fire an employee for using cannabis off-site.
But according to Bowman’s attorneys, the Colorado statute’s vague definition of lawful allowed employers to adhere to federal law, which outlaws cannabis, over state law and terminate employees who indulge in state-sanctioned cannabis, even during their personal time. Nevada’s statute, on the other hand, specifically says that employers cannot discriminate against staff who take part in activities allowed by state law. Now that Judge Delaney sided with former officer Bowman, his attorney Adam Levine says the written motion may take a week to prepare.
Still, Levine advises police officers who want to consume cannabis to exercise restraint. While the LVPD will likely agree to issue Bowman’s back pay, it will most likely appeal against reinstating him. The Las Vegas Police Department did not respond to requests for a comment on the case when contacted by local media outlets.
The ruling made by the judge in Nevada can have beneficial ramifications inasmuch as patients who can be helped by using medical marijuana will not fear to take this option alongside high-tech devices such as the Smart Patch made by RYAH Group Inc. (CSE: RYAH), which is intended to deliver plant medicine to a particular site, such as a painful joint.
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