The Conflict between Legalizing Cannabis and the Professional Licensee

The wave of marijuana legalization is crashing across the country. I recently appeared on Art Fennel Reports, on the Comcast Network arguing against the legalization of the personal use of marijuana. I maintain this position in light of the extensive impact a positive blood test showing the presence of THC in one’s blood will have on the professional licensee.

In my television appearance my position rested solely upon the societal choice of selling and taxing cannabis to fund schools, similar to government support of gambling in the form of state lottery systems. I disagree with this type of regressive tax on our society’s neediest to fund government programs that wealthier individuals should support.  I also disagree with making cannabis more accessible to the children who will now attend school high on pot and be even less likely to learn or simply will not show up for school.  My position stands regardless for the fact that the war on drug has been lost. ( Importantly, everyone agrees the drug laws would not change for the illegal sale of cannabis. This means that incarceration levels and state level prison sentences would not be affected by legalizing personal use marijuana. )

As for the professional licensee (doctor, dentist, nurse, real estate agent, pharmacist, and/or ambulance tech) smoking cannabis or eating food made with marijuana will still present the THC drug in your blood.  Pennsylvania’s current driving after imbibing drug law, 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3802(d), does not require intoxication or impairment to be guilty of driving while high. Getting high a day or two prior to a car crash or traffic violation that may/could evolve into a Pennsylvania DUI investigation could result in a blood draw showing THC in the blood. If the THC metabolite is present, one will be charged with DUI.

Importantly, if there is a car accident (either in the workplace and OSHA or the federal labor board investigates or after work hour on your private time) your blood may still be drawn. The presence of TCH in a licensee’s blood from private personal recreational cannabis smoking or eating, will also generate a State Board investigation. Obviously this investigation will be in addition to any criminal prosecution or work place employment related investigation.

Simply put, legally getting high on cannabis it is not worth the high cost associated with defending one against the state trying to revoke or discipline the professional licensee for such conduct.   The complications that arise from the two very simple scenarios overrides the benefits of legalization of marijuana. My prior blogs set forth the extensive administrative nightmare each license confronts when a state license board attempts to discipline or strip a licensee of their professional license.

Unfortunately, the people advocating for the legalization of marijuana do not consider the over lapping legal consequence the decades of civil penalties that have been erected to scare people into being safe in the work place (any work place with any type of license) and not show up at work (or use your professional license) high. It is these scare tactics and penalties that are are not being removed with the legalization of pot and with which a licensee may be confronted if caught on the “job” high.

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