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Legal Marijuana Use: Is It a "Right" for Firefighters, Too?

Posted by Feld Fire on 6/24/2014 to Fire Fighting

Several states in the last few years have contradicted federal law and allowed residents to use marijuana in small amounts either for recreational or medicinal purposes.

The idea of having a personal stash of pot has led to some questions among first responders, especially. Many employers - fire departments, police departments and many other private and public entities - have had long-standing conduct policies that prohibited illegal drug or alcohol use while on duty, or off-duty if a random drug test comes out positive. With these states now allowing personal pot use, does that mean firefighters can utilize this newfound right on their own time without consequence?

To really get into this question, we have to look at the reasons the policies are in place. These policies are not necessarily in place to prevent illegal use because it's against the law, because that isn't necessarily true for all substances - firefighters have the legal right to use alcohol, for example, but they are not fired for drinking; they are fired for drinking on the job or having alcohol in their system when on duty.

With that in mind, the policies really aren't affected by newfound legal pot use laws, because it has to do with the after-effects of the use. The policies were drawn up to prevent firefighters from being under the influence while on duty - to ensure that each firefighter's mind is clear and they have an adequate amount of focus, concentration and physical coordination to do the job of saving lives.

And alcohol, truth be told, is actually easier to get through the system than marijuana. It is generally considered that pot takes several days or even weeks, to fully leave a person's system where the person will test negative, based on body size, and frequency of usage. Even a one-time user of pot can test positive up to six days after use. And the more you use, the longer it takes to clear out. Moderate users may test positive for up to 13 days after the last toke, while frequent users may take 15 days or more and heavy users will take a month or more.

And since most firefighters aren't able to work one day and then take two weeks off, the idea of smoking pot while off-duty is not necessarily a good idea. So do you have a "right" to smoke pot? Yes. Like most things, however, you can exercise your right, but there may be consequences for you doing so.

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