Let’s take a few minutes and try to clear the air regarding cannabis and traveling healthcare workers.
A good place to start is with the most frequently asked question: “Can I use it?”
With the legalization of recreational marijuana in many states, it may be easy to assume that if a person lives and works where cannabis is fully legal, there’s nothing to worry about. But hold that thought. For traveling nurses and other health workers, it’s not just state and federal laws at play – there are a gaggle of players who decide what a traveler can and can’t do in terms of marijuana.-
There’s Red Tape. And Plenty of It.
Nothing brings out the red tape faster than the sweet smell of cannabis. So, visiting a dispensary (in states that have them), it’s important to understand how the system works. In most cases, there are boards that oversee regulation and state licensure entities.
But it doesn’t end there. Even if you’re in a state where all use is legal, a healthcare facility, clinic, or hospital that contracts with, you can choose to enforce their own rules regardless of state and federal laws. So just because you’re located in a “legal” state doesn’t mean it’s free of consequence if you test positive on your drug screen.
What About Federal Law?
No matter the particular state you’re in, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug. This classification puts marijuana in the same category as heroin in the government’s eyes. It also considers pot to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use – making the distribution of marijuana a federal offense.
While a state may agree to recreational weed or medical use, the Feds don’t. The state’s laws could have some influence, but they may not protect a health worker in cases that end up in federal court.
Be Aware. Be Very, Very Aware
The bottom line is travel nurses and other traveling health professionals need to be extra careful.
With each new assignment, a traveler will be drug screened. So, if you’re coming from an assignment in Oregon where cannabis use is legal, to a state like Texas where it’s NOT, there’s a high likelihood of not getting the assignment due to flunking the drug test even if you used it legally a week ago.
So, Can I Use It or Not?
To help understand the latest guidelines pertaining to cannabis use, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). It’s a good resource for the latest regulations as they progress.
In addition, a trend called “no impairment, no discipline” is slowly getting traction that might eliminate unnecessary drug screens and loss of a job. This guideline would mean that consequences are only for those who show up for work while impaired.
It also helps clarify that pre-employment use is not evidence of being a regular user or that an employee was impaired at work. And it would keep any of your medical peers, superiors or nurses with biases, from requesting unnecessary drug screens on staff who are not impaired, just because they know they use cannabis.
At Focus Staff, we understand the ins and outs of travel healthcare professionals and have access to a wide variety of excellent professional opportunities. So, if you love to travel – and love being in healthcare – contact us today.