CRIST INTRODUCES BIPARTISAN BILL TO PROTECT VETERANS TREATMENT OPTIONS

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Washington, March 14, 2019 | comments

Washington, DC -Today, Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) announced introduction of the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act (H.R.1687). The bill, co-led by Congressman Don Young (R-AK), would protect veterans' cannabis treatment options and their ability to be employed by the federal government.Currently, use of marijuana by federal employees is prohibited by law and any use is cause for termination.

"For our veterans', cannabis has been shown to address chronic pain and PTSD, often replacing addictive and harmful opioids. At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of our veterans’ community. This conflict, between medical care and maintaining employment, needs to be resolved,"said Congressman Crist."For federal employees complying with state cannabis law, they shouldn’t have to choose between a proven treatment and their job."

“I’m pleased to join Representative Crist in introducing this legislation today. I truly believe that this Congress we will see real reform of our nation’s cannabis laws – reform based on a states’ right approach,” said Congressman Don Young. “This bill would protect federal workers, including veterans, from discrimination should they be participating in activities compliant with state-level cannabis laws on their personal time. The last thing we need is to drive talented workers away from these employment opportunities.As a Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus I remain committed to promoting this bill as well as other legislation to protect individuals and reform our federal cannabis laws.”

The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act is supported by Americans for Safe Access, Florida for Care, Marijuana Policy Project, National Cannabis Industry Association, NORML,Veterans Cannabis Coalition, and Weed for Warriors Project.

A recent American Legion poll found broad support for cannabis treatment among veterans and caregivers, as well as that one in five veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition.

“The discriminatory practice of pre-employment drug testing for cannabis disproportionately hurts the ability for veterans and medical patients to achieve economic security and a feeling of self-worth,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “In order to protect the individual liberties of would-be employees and best position the federal government to attract top talent, the harmful ‘Green Box’ must be destroyed. The bipartisan nature of this effort and the bill’s sponsors underscore the absurdity of the status quo and we appreciate the leadership of Congressmen Charlie Crist and Don Young.”

"Congressman Crist has been a strong ally in our fight to allow Florida patients access to medical marijuana and efforts to protect this access from federal interference. Florida for Care is proud to support his common-sense bill to protect employment of Floridians whose well-being depends on continuing medical marijuana treatment,"said Ben Pollara,Executive Director of Florida for Care, and campaign manager of the successful 2016 campaign to approve medical marijuana in Florida. "We applaud Congressman Crist’s leadership on this important issue as we continue working together to protect patients and strengthen the state’s medical marijuana system."

"The Veterans Cannabis Coalition thanks Congressman Crist and Congressman Young for their continued leadership on cannabis reform. We know that effective medical treatment and gainful employment are essential in long-term positive veteran outcomes. We also know millions of veterans use cannabis to treat their service-connected injuries and illnesses. Today, in states where it is otherwise legal, veterans in federal employment find themselves caught between using a low-risk, high-benefit treatment like cannabis and losing their job, or continuing to take addictive pharmaceuticals that have debilitating side-effects and keeping their paycheck. This flies in the face of the promise the federal government has made to every veteran to provide the best care possible. The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act is a move in the right direction to promote veteran and public health and protect citizens from government overreach." Veterans Cannabis Coalition Founder Eric Goepel and Co-Founder Bill Ferguson wrote in support of H.R.1687.

"With Congress moving steadily closer to ending cannabis prohibition and more than 97% of the population living in states where cannabis is allowed in some form, there is no reason to continue punishing federal employees for behavior that is legal where they reside, particularly if they are using it to treat a medical condition," said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. "Cannabis consumers have been discriminated against in the workplace for far too long, and the Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act would help improve fairness and opportunity at one of the nation's biggest employers.The federal government's war on cannabis is winding down and it is ridiculous to make its own workforce some of the last victims."

"Medical Cannabis is now legal in 33 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories, but the Drug-Free Workplace Act and other arcane policies prevent federal employees from using cannabis to treat debilitating conditions. The Federal Government rightly gives hiring preferences to Veterans for many positions, but without a change in federal drug law, far too many qualified employees will be overlooked simply because of what medicine they use. Representative Crist's bill makes this long overdue change."said David Mangone, Esq., Director of Government Affairs, Americans for Safe Access.

“The Weed for Warriors Project applauds Representative Crist and Representative Young for introducing H.R.1687, a much-needed next step for our disabled veterans on the road to recovery.While we have seen great progress for disabled veterans wishing to choose legal cannabis over pharmaceuticals, we have not seen employers embracing disabled veterans’ right to choose cannabis – creating a roadblock to the dignity of employment for too many,”said Sean Kiernan, CEO of the Weed for Warriors Project. “Rep Crist’s bill will remove cannabis as a prohibitive factor in Federal employment without endangering the public’s safety – allowing our Great Country to respect the sacrifice our heroes made when they stood up for Freedom. We urge a ‘yes’ vote on H.R.1687. It is one of the most important votes our leaders can take in re-enfranchising our disabled veterans into the community.”

"Patients shouldn't be fired for consuming marijuana in compliance with state laws when they're off the clock,"said Marijuana Policy Project’s Director of Federal Policies, Don Murphy. "We thank Reps. Crist and Ferguson for their leadership on this issue, protecting our veterans and others in the federal workforce."

FAIRNESS IN FEDERAL DRUG TESTING UNDER STATE LAWS ACT (H.R.6589):

U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Don Young (R-AK)

Supported by: Americans for Safe Access, Florida for Care, Marijuana Policy Project, National Cannabis Industry Association, NORML, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Weed for Warriors Project

Purpose:
To protect federal employment opportunities and treatment options for veterans and other civilian federal agency employees residing in a state or territory where their use of medical marijuana is legal.

Background:Enacted in 1986, the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program made it a condition for employment that all civilian employees at executive branch agencies be prohibited from using federally illegal substances on or off duty. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 33 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, and 47 states have some form of medical marijuana law; however, it remains illegal under federal law. Therefore, federal employees can be denied employment or terminated due to testing positive for marijuana metabolites, even if their use is in compliance with state law. This conflict between state and federal laws limits treatment options and federal employment opportunities, particularly impacting veterans who comprise approximately one-third of the federal workforce and whose medical cannabis use to treat chronic pain and PTSD has been found to be double the rate of the general public. A recent American Legion poll found that one in five veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition.

Bill Overview:

● The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act prohibits marijuana metabolite testing from being used as the sole factor to deny or terminate federal employment for civilian positions at executive branch agencies if the individual is in compliance with the marijuana laws in their state of residence.

● The bill only extends to an individual’s past, private use of cannabis, and does not prohibit probable cause testing if an individual is believed to be impaired at work.

● The bill does not apply to individuals occupying or seeking a position requiring a top-secret clearance.

 

 

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