EXCLUSIVE: Cop, firefighter told medical pot not OK at police, fire departments
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One Honolulu police officer and one Honolulu firefighter have tested positive for marijuana in recent years and they presented their medical marijuana permits as the reason, sources told Hawaii News Now Friday.
But police departments across the state and the Honolulu Fire Department are not allowing employees to use medical marijuana.
Sources said the Oahu firefighter and police officer who both tried to use their medical marijuana cards after testing positive were told that was their "one strike" that allowed for a positive marijuana test and they both had to complete counseling and were then allowed to return to work.
They were told they had to stop using medical marijuana if they wanted to keep their jobs.
The Honolulu Fire Department does not allow firefighters to use medical marijuana, because it could "adversely affect their ability to perform safety-sensitive functions," an HFD spokesman said.
"Having a medical marijuana card doesn't make any difference. If you're positive for marijuana, you're positive for marijuana," said Bobby Lee, president of the union that represents 2,000 firefighters across the state.
Lee supports the policy.
"We have to err on the side of caution and the public entrusts us with their safety and we gotta make sure that our firefighters are clean and not under the influence of any type of illegal drugs," Lee said.
The Honolulu Police Department and other police departments across the state have no formal policies that specifically address medical marijuana. But since federal law prohibits marijuana users from carrying firearms and ammunition, police departments said their officers cannot use medical marijuana.
"We have no specific policy but we don't allow it," said a spokeswoman for the Hawaii County Police Department.
A Maui County police spokesman said, "The department shall not allow our officers to be prescribed medical marijuana regardless of the new laws that have taken effect."
Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry said, "Marijuana is still a schedule one drug with the feds and it's particularly worrisome if you have an officer under the influence carrying a firearm or other less-than-lethal weapons such as a baton or Taser, not to mention driving a vehicle."
The police union's collective bargaining agreement with all four police departments in the state includes marijuana as one of the drugs management can randomly test for.
Since traces of marijuana can remain in the body for anywhere from four to ten days and in extreme cases for a month or two, police and fire departments said there's no way to differentiate between a first-responder who smoked a joint a few hours ago or a few days ago, so they have to bar marijuana use altogether.
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