In denying a petition to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cited workplace safety as a factor in its decision.
In 2002, the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis asked that marijuana be reclassified from a Schedule I controlled substance to either schedule III, IV or V.
Schedule I includes heroin and LSD.
Reclassifying pot would acknowledge its potential for medical use. At least one group that joined the petition, Americans for Safe Access, plans to appeal the decision.
The DEA rejected the request, saying marijuana meets three criteria for keeping it in Schedule I:
- It has a high potential for abuse
- It has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and
- There is a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
In DEA’s determination that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, the agency found: “The cognitive impairments caused by marijuana use … may have significant consequences on workplace performance and safety … and automotive safety.”
However, another federal agency has stopped short of saying it will close state medical marijuana programs. Currently, 16 states allow medically prescribed marijuana.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) didn’t want to implement his state’s medical marijuana program until the federal government assured him there would be no arrests or prosecutions of state workers.
In response, a letter to all states from the U.S. Justice Department says New Jersey’s program isn’t likely to run afoul of federal law if its operation is kept small and controlled.
The letter states that the federal government wants to avoid “industrial marijuana cultivation centers,” which would grow tens of thousands of pot plants.
There’s no word from Christie’s administration on whether the letter satisfied the governor’s concerns.
Recently, courts have ruled that, even though state medical marijuana laws protect medical users from prosecution, they aren’t immune from being fired because of companies’ zero-tolerance drug policies.
Of course, besides the federal government’s position on pot, a key reason many companies have adopted zero-tolerance policies is because of concerns about workplace safety.
Given the recent court decisions and the statements by the federal government, do you think it’s clear now that companies can fire employees who test positive for pot, even though they have prescriptions for medical marijuana? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.
Update, 7-19-2011: New Jersey Gov. Christie has decided to let the medical marijuana distribution go forward despite his concerns.