U.S. Forest Service Reminds Employees That They Are Still Subject to Federal Law

On June 22, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) deputy chief for business operations Tony Dixon published a statement exploring the relationship and impact of cannabis on federal employees.

“Over the last 10 years or so, our views around the use of marijuana have shifted radically,” Dixon stated. “Many states have legalized use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and some have even allowed recreational use in much the same manner as tobacco or alcohol products. But where does that leave the federal government?”

Like other federal agencies, USFS employees are subject to the same federal laws as everyone else. However, he also explained the ongoing problem of federal employees not passing drug tests. “As a result of the confusion around these state-by-state changes, there has been a noticeable uptick in cases of employees failing drug tests,” he said. “Those results have been associated with the legalization of marijuana and have resulted in corrective action, including suspensions and loss of employment.”

Depending on the agency, some people are disqualified from applying if they have consumed cannabis within one year up to five years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) previously required applicants to abstain from cannabis use for up to three years in order to be eligible for a job, although that was changed to one year back in July 2021.

The U.S. Secret Service used to allow applicants 24 or younger to apply for a job if they were cannabis-free for one year, and those 28 and older would need to be cannabis-free for at least five years. However, in May the agency updated its rules to allow applications to be reviewed for those who consume hemp-derived cannabis products within one year prior to the application.

According to Dixon though, cannabis can prevent employees from doing their work. “I value all my co-workers and want to ensure that we all continue to do the work we love in a safe environment,” he added. “I don’t want to see anyone penalized or even lose their jobs for something that could easily be avoided.”

“Many Forest Service employees already work in risky environments in the service of our communities,” he continued. “We want you to be aware of how this choice could have a negative effect on the rest of your lives. So, I wanted to take this time to refresh everyone on regulations and expectations placed upon us as Forest Service employees.”

Dixon addressed CBD as well, warning that some products inaccurately label products which contain trace amounts of THC and could potentially lead to a positive drug test. He also provides information for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s National Helpline, and online resources for treatment for those “struggling with addi[c]tion.”

“Above all, I want to make sure that at the end of the day, no one’s employment is affected or cut short by situations that are within our control,” Dixon concluded. “Please remember that no matter the state, as a federal employee, you are always subject to federal law.”

Although Dixon suggests that federal employees should abstain from cannabis use, and cites substance abuse services if they have trouble doing so, some studies have found evidence that many substances can be used to treat certain forms of addiction. 

The results of a study published in JAMA Psychiatry in August 2022 found that psilocybin can be used to treat alcohol misuse disorder. 

In October 2022, a study published in Substance Use & Misuse stated that four out of five patients featured in the study reported a decrease or reduction in opioid use after using medical cannabis. “The findings suggest that some medical cannabis patients decreased opioid use without harming quality of life or health functioning, soon after the legalization of medical cannabis,” researchers explained.

In March, researchers wrote in an Addiction Neuroscience journal study that CBD helped female rats curb opioid addiction. “The ability of [whole-plant extract] to reduce opioid reward and drug seeking behavior appears quite robust and of great clinical utility,” researchers wrote. 

Another study published in the journal Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics earlier this year in April also found that many chronic pain patients who consumed cannabis for six months decreased their use of opioids. Researchers also found that “…patients prescribed oils or both types of CBMPs experienced reduced anxiety and an improvement in their ability to perform daily activities,” the authors wrote.

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Former Steeler Le’Veon Bell Says He Was High During Games

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Le’Veon Bell said in a recent podcast that he’d score touchdowns and win games—even if he smoked pot beforehand.

Bell, who is now a free agent, had short runs with the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers after leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers—the place he truly calls home in his professional football career. CBS News reports that Bell spilled the details in a recent podcast about how often he’d smoke, even before the game.

During Bell’s run with the Steelers from 2013 to 2017, he chalked up 5,336 rushing yards, 2,660 receiving yards, and averaged 5.2 yards per touchdown. Bell also earned two All-Pro selections and had three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. In 2015 and 2016 he was voted as one of the NFL Top 100. He apparently rushed many of those touchdowns stoned.

On Episode 30 of the “Steel Here” podcast, Bell explained how he smoked pot before some of his best performances for the Steelers.

“Looking back, that’s what I did,” Bell said. “When I was playing football, I smoked. Even before the games, I’d smoke and I’d go out there and run for 150, two (touchdowns).”

In 2019, Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets, which didn’t last too long. Bell hasn’t played professional football since the 2021 season, but has no plans to retire from the league anytime soon. A contract dispute led to his departure with the Steelers, but he hopes to eventually retire with them.

“It literally was the guarantee. They weren’t budging off of it and I wasn’t budging off of it. I didn’t want to leave Pittsburgh,” Bell said. “At the end of the day, that’s where I was at. That’s where I got drafted at. Especially after going to different teams and seeing how it is, when a team has their guy, you’re their guy. I was Pittsburgh’s guy.”

In 2021, the National Football League (NFL) made significant changes to its guidelines, so now players are only required to drug test for cannabis just once at the beginning of training camp.

“I’m trying to retire with Pittsburgh,” Bell said. “But before I do that, I might be like, ‘Hey, let me get a couple carries in the preseason so I can show you all something.’”

The NFL and Pot Policy

The NFL is easing up on cannabis policies like most other major sport leagues. Last year, the NFL took another step forward by awarding funds to two cannabis research initiatives focused on the effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment for pain management.

The NFL is currently exploring cannabis-based medicine for the treatment of pain, given that the alternative is usually opioids. The NFL announced in a press release on February 1, 2022 that it would be presenting $1 million to two different researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and University of Regina (UR), which is located in Canada. Both research groups will be focusing on how cannabinoids can aid in general pain management, with a few other goal studies as well.

The NFL-NFLPA Joint Pain Management Committee (PMC) called for research proposals in June 2021, asking for researchers to assist with PMC’s knowledge about pain management and athletic performance.” The committee received a total of 106 submissions, which was narrowed down to 10 finalists by the NFL Research and Innovation Committee. 

In the meantime, players are likely smoking. It mirrors what has been said about other major sports leagues such as the National Basketball Association (NBA). (Jay Williams estimated that 80% of NBA players smoke weed; Al Harrington guesses the number is a bit higher.)

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Pennsylvania House Members Introduce Bill To Protect Medical Cannabis Users From DUIs

If a bill passes in Pennsylvania, medical cannabis patients will no longer be at risk of being charged with a DUI just because drug tests show the presence of THC in their system, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. However, that doesn’t mean you can drive while impaired if you have a card, nor does it apply to anyone who uses cannabis without a medical card. 

Rather, the introduced legislation attempts to address a long-standing problem since cannabis legalization. As many readers know, THC can show up in your urine 30 days after you consume it and up to 90 days for heavier users. Therefore, arresting people for DUIs because their drug test shows the presence of THC would be like issuing out DUIs to a driver who hasn’t had a drink in a month. The bias in drug testing against cannabis, one of the safest drugs, doesn’t only come up regarding alcohol. Cocaine leaves your urine after about three days, as does heroin. Meth can hang around for six days. When a person fails a drug test for any reason, it’s often just because they smoked some weed. 

We know that cannabis is generally safe to consume, and a recent Canadian study even found that weed legalization does not lead to more car crashes. However, it’s understandable that folks are concerned about impaired drivers. But, under current Pennsylvania law, police can charge drivers with a DUI when marijuana use is detected, regardless of the level of impairment or time of consumption. 

“In 2016, the PA General Assembly voted to legalize medicinal use of cannabis. Sadly, the legislature failed to provide these patients the same privileges afforded to others who have legal prescriptions for a scheduled medication,” reads a cosponsor and bipartite memo from Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, and Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Luzerne. “Medicinal cannabis patients regularly contact our offices concerned that state law makes it illegal for them to drive,” they continue. 

Currently (and thankfully), Pennsylvania is an outlier and only one of a handful of states which have zero tolerance for controlled substances. Thirty-three states (even somewhere cannabis is still mostly outlawed) require proof of actual impairment at the time of being pulled over. Last session, Pennsylvania representatives introduced similar legislation but got stuck in the government’s quicksand and didn’t make it out of the Transportation Committee. Additional attempts to solve this issue arose in the state Senate. The Senate Transportation Committee approved Senate Bill 167 last June. However (more government quicksand) the bill didn’t even get a vote in the full Senate before the 2021-22 legislative session closed.

“During a Senate Transportation Committee meeting last September, representatives of the Pennsylvania State Police testified that the bill would not adversely impact their mission to keep the highways and byways of the Commonwealth free of impaired drivers,” Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, the prime sponsor of SB 167, said in a statement at the time of that committee vote, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Considering more than 425,000 Pennsylvania residents have active patient certifications allowing them to use medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, let’s hope this issue resolves sooner rather than later. 

Reasonable Pennsylvania officials are currently trying to make cannabis laws more rational in other ways. Sen. Mike Regan, R-Cumberland, and Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport announced plans earlier this year for legislation allowing doctors to certify patients to use medical cannabis for any condition rather than the state’s current limited medical list. On a map of which states have legalized adult-use, Pennsylvania sticks out like a sore thumb that hasn’t.

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Positive Cannabis Drug Tests in Workplace at the Highest in 25 years

According to a Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index Analysis that was published on May 18, post-accident workplace drug testing hit an all-time high in 2022. Last year, 7.3% workforce drug urine samples contained cannabis, in comparison to 6.7% of workers in 2021. Quest Diagnostics states that it has recorded a steady rise in post-accident cannabis positivity since 2012, with a 204.2% increase in workers testing positive for cannabis over the past 10 years. Between 2002-2009, post-accident positive test results had decreased.

Katie Mueller, National Safety Council senior program manager, said in a press release that the rise in legalization corresponds to an increase in workplace accidents. “Intoxicating cannabis products, including marijuana, can have a major impact on safety at work and have been proven to slow reaction time, impact memory and impair skills essential to driving. State legalization of the drug creates new challenges for employers,” said Mueller. “The Quest data provide compelling evidence that increased use of cannabis products by employees can contribute to greater risk for injuries in the workplace. It is imperative employers take the proper steps to create and maintain a policy that addresses cannabis use, build a safety-focused culture and educate the workforce to keep all workers safe on and off the job.”

The report states that cannabis was the main reason that workers’s drug tests have been positive, but other substances such as amphetamines have also contributed to the increase, with cannabis increasing by 10.3% and amphetamines increasing by 15.4%. In 2022, the most common industries that saw a rise in positive workplace drug tests were Accommodation and Food Services (7%), Retail Trade (7.7%), and Finance and Insurance (3.6%).

Keith Ward, Quest Diagnostics General Manager and Vice President for Employer Solutions, 

“Our 2022 Quest Diagnostics analysis shows that the overall U.S. workforce positivity rate continued to be at a historically elevated level in 2022, even as much of the nation’s workforce returned to the office post-pandemic,” said Ward. “This historic rise seems to correspond with sharp increases in positivity for marijuana in both pre-employment and post-accident drug tests, suggesting that changing societal attitudes about marijuana may be impacting workplace behaviors and putting colleagues at risk. The increase in amphetamines positivity is also notable, given the addictive potential and health risks associated with this class of drugs.”

While safety is of the utmost importance in any workplace, the Quest Diagnostic data does not address how cannabis can remain in a person’s system for weeks after consumption, long after the effects have faded. With the rise in cannabis legalization, many industries are becoming more understanding of how cannabis is being commonly used as a relaxation aide, as well as treatment for common conditions like anxiety, depression, and more.

In February 2021, the Biden Administrations announced a new policy that would allow applicants to be hired even if they had previously consumed cannabis. “The White House’s policy will maintain the absolute highest standards for service in government that the President expects from his administration, while acknowledging the reality that state and local marijuana laws have changed significantly across the country in recent years,” the policy stated.

In September 2022, New Jersey regulators issued employment guidance for cannabis rules in the workplace, which “is meant to support employers’ right to create and maintain safe work environments, and to affirm employees’ right to due process.”

Additionally, a Canada-based study from 2020 found no association with cannabis use and increased workplace injuries. It analyzed 136,536 workers, 2,577 of whom experienced a work-related injury within the last 12 months, and only 4% stated that they were cannabis users during that time frame.

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Discovering THCA Flower

THCA flower contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, which is the raw form of THC. As opposed to THC, THCA isn’t psychoactive, so it doesn’t get you high. THCA is believed to offer various health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. It is also suggested that THCA can aid in focus and maintaining healthy energy levels, although more research is needed to confirm these claims. THCA must be heated or decarboxylated to convert it into THC.

One of THCA flower’s unique features is its versatility. You can enjoy it either raw, which provides non-euphoric benefits, or have it converted  into THC  by applying heat.  This natural process, called decarboxylation, unlocks the euphoric effects many enthusiasts prefer, turning THCA Flower into the most potent type of hemp flower around.

Legality of THCA Flower

In the United States, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and its derivatives, including THCA flower, as long as the plant contains less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. Individual states may have their own laws and regulations so it’s best to check local laws before purchasing or using THCA flower.

Heat and Time Transform THCA Into THC

In the world of cannabis, the process of transforming THCA into THC is called decarboxylation, and it can occur through heat or time. When cannabis is smoked or vaporized, heat instantly transforms THCA into THC, allowing for the immediate effects many consumers are looking for.

However, decarboxylation can also occur over time. If a cannabis plant is left in the sun for too long, its THCA molecules will slowly convert to THC, leading to a more potent and psychoactive experience. In addition to the sun, decarboxylation can occur naturally over time due to aging or storage conditions.

It’s worth noting that THCA and THC offer different benefits, so understanding the difference is important for users. While THCA provides non-euphoric benefits like helping with concentration and maintaining healthy energy levels, THC stimulates a more traditional and elevated experience.

Courtesy Hemp Doctor

THCA Flower Potency

Are you wondering if THCA flower can provide the same potency as regular cannabis? The answer is yes, but with some nuances.

THCA flower contains THCA, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that only becomes THC when heated through a process called decarboxylation. Once heated, THCA transforms into THC, producing euphoric effects comparable to regular weed. However, the strength and flavor of the THCA flower depend on different factors such as strain, potency, and individual tolerance.

Individual factors such as tolerance and dosage can also affect the strength of THCA flower compared to regular cannabis. Experts recommend starting with a low dose and gradually increasing consumption to avoid unwanted effects.

While THCA Flower can produce similar effects to traditional cannabis when heated, THCA Flower possesses several unique characteristics. For instance, THCA flower is non-euphoric in its raw form, offering different benefits than regular cannabis such as helping with concentration and focus, as well as maintaining healthy energy levels.

THCA flower provides a unique flavor profile that sets it apart from traditional flower. It contains different cannabinoids and terpenes that serve to complement the THCA and offer unique tastes and aromas. When it comes to strength, THCA flower can pack a punch, and its effects are influenced by a range of factors that make its use unique.

Despite its differences, THCA flower can provide an enjoyable and transformative experience for users looking for a new perspective.

Does THCA Show Up On A Drug Test?

Most drug tests are designed to detect THC. Since THCA is not psychoactive, it typically won’t trigger a positive result on a drug test.

That being said, some drug tests may be sensitive enough to detect THCA in your system, which could result in a false positive. This is particularly true of tests that use immunoassay screening, which are common in many workplaces and government agencies. Immunoassay-based tests are designed to detect a range of cannabinoids, including THC and its derivatives, but they can sometimes produce false positives for other compounds. It’s best to abstain from consuming THCA flower if you know that you’ll be subjected to a drug test in the near future.

How to Use THCA Flower

You can use THCA flower in various ways. If you prefer to activate THCA into THC, you can smoke or vaporize it, or use a dry herb vape for a smokeless experience. Alternatively, you can juice it, sprinkle it over your favorite food, soak it in olive oil, or mix it into butter for various culinary uses. THCA hemp flower can make a potent addition to edibles, providing longer-lasting euphoria.

  • Smoking: When a flame is used to smoke dried, cured bud, the high degree of heat applied in a short amount of time rapidly converts THCA to THC.
  • Vaporizing: When heated at a relatively low temperature, cannabinoid acids are converted. Continuing to increase the heat will ensure that the maximum amount of THCA is converted into THC.
  • Dabbing: Similar to vaping, dabbing also decarboxylates THCA into active THC. Crystalline is the THCA form most likely to be used for dabbing.
  • Baking: For intoxicating homemade edibles, you’ll want to decarboxylate the weed before infusing it in butter or oil, and you can use your oven to do it.
Courtesy Hemp Doctor

Buy Premium Quality THCA Flower

If you’re looking for premium-quality THCA flower, The Hemp Doctor has you covered! Here are some of their most popular strains:

Buttermilk Cookies

Buttermilk Cookies is a full-bodied, calming high that will boost your mood and provide you with an incredibly blissful experience. Its natural yet powerful euphoric effects make it the ideal evening companion!


Gelato’s unique blend of indica and sativa creates an experience like no other. A euphoric feeling rushes in, numbing pain for a deep relaxation that also keeps the mind clear and productive – waking or sleeping! This strain leaves its mark on every user who indulges.

Italian Ice 

Italian Ice is an Indoor Exotic THCA strain renowned for its balanced and sublime effects. This immensely popular Hybrid is a cross between Gelato 45 & Forbidden Fruit strains, providing the perfect balance of flavorsome content and trichomes with 294mg/g total cannabinoid content.

Ice Cream Cookies

Ice Cream Cookies offers a unique experience, starting with an invigorating cerebral sensation that gradually morphs into tranquilizing effects. It’s prized for its potency and is perfect for those cozy evenings.

To Sum It Up

THCA Flower is a versatile and potent alternative to traditional cannabis. Whether you’re seeking non-euphoric benefits or looking for a more elevated experience, THCA Flower can deliver.

While it’s true that THCA Flower can have psychoactive effects when heated or decarboxylated, remember that THCA Flower also provides benefits in its raw form. Whether you’re drawn to its non-euphoric benefits or its potent psychoactive effects, THCA Flower is a unique and versatile addition to any cannabis user’s arsenal.

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Virginia Officials Consider Measures To Reduce Stoned Driving

Officials in Virginia are exploring ways to deter drivers from getting behind the wheel after getting stoned, the latest effort by the commonwealth to smooth out its new adult-use cannabis law.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that the “the Virginia Crime Commission — an arm of the General Assembly tasked with studying issues of criminal law and making recommendations — [has] discussed some potential steps police and sheriff’s offices can use to crack down on driving while high,” and that the “commission is expected to meet Dec. 5 to draft their proposals for the legislative session that begins in January.”

“One thing under consideration at the commission’s Nov. 16 meeting: changing state law to allow roadside screening devices in which officers and deputies can have a driver swab his or her cheek in order to gather saliva to test for marijuana and other drugs,” the outlet reported this week. 

“Virginia officials said the ‘oral fluid tests’ under consideration to detect marijuana intoxication are similar to a ‘preliminary breath test’ — a roadside test for alcohol. The test results, while not admissible in court, can help determine when the cannabis was consumed, and can be combined with other factors to get probable cause for extensive blood testing,” the publication continued. 

Kristen Howard, the executive director of the Virginia Crime Commission, told the Virginian-Pilot that officers can “swab the inside of someone’s mouth, and you get a positive or negative and it just gives you some indicators.”

“It’s designed to hone in on the recentness of use — how many hours ago you used this drug,” Howard explained.

The moves come within a month of a survey from the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority (CCA), which showed that a high number of Virginians are comfortable toking and driving. 

According to the survey, roughly 23% reported consuming pot in the past three months and about 14% of drivers in the state said that they have driven high several times in the past year. 

The survey also showed that a third believe marijuana improves their ability to drive safely. 

Virginia officials sounded the alarm on the survey results.

“These results are worrying and underscore the General Assembly was right to direct the CCA to undertake a safe driving campaign,” said John Keohane, a board chair of the Cannabis Control Authority.

Jeremy Preiss, the CCA’s Acting Head and Chief Officer for Regulatory, Policy, and External Affairs, said that the agency must make the issue a priority.

“As a public safety and public health agency, the CCA currently has no greater priority than creating a well-funded, aggressive, and sustained campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of marijuana-impaired driving,” Preiss said. 

Virginia legalized recreational cannabis last year, becoming the first state in the south to do so

But that came under a Democratic governor, Ralph Northam. Republicans took back the governor’s mansion last year when Glenn Youngkin was elected. 

Youngkin said from the start that he has no interest in rolling back the marijuana law, but his election––as well as Republicans winning back control of the state House of Delegates––has stymied its implementation.

The Democratic-controlled state Senate passed a bill earlier this year to fast-track the launch of recreational pot sales, but the legislation was rejected in the House.  

Prior to taking office earlier this year, Youngkin spoke about his vision for the new cannabis program.

“When it comes to commercialization, I think there is a lot of work to be done. I’m not against it, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Youngkin said. “There are some nonstarters, including the forced unionization that’s in the current bill. There have been concerns expressed by law enforcement in how the gap in the laws can actually be enforced. Finally, there’s a real need to make sure that we aren’t promoting an anti-competitive industry. I do understand that there are preferences to make sure that all participants in the industry are qualified to do the industry well.”

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New York ‘Scrambling’ To Develop Cannabis DUI Test

As New York hurtles toward the opening of its new legal recreational marijuana market, the state is apparently “scrambling to develop a way to measure when motorists are driving while under the influence of cannabis since there’s no current standard or valid testing.”

That is according to a report on Sunday in the New York Post, which said that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration has issued a call for a mechanism to spot weed-impaired drivers.

“With the legalization of adult-use cannabis, there are concerns of increased incidences of driving while impaired after cannabis use,” the New York Department of Health said in a proposal, as quoted by the Post.

“Identifying drivers impaired by cannabis use is of critical importance…..However, unlike alcohol, there are currently no evidence-based methods to detect cannabis-impaired driving,” the memo continued.

The news comes amid budding anticipation for the launch of New York’s first regulated adult-use marijuana retailers. According to the Post, New York is expected to award “up to 175 retail licenses to sell marijuana in the coming weeks.”

Hochul said last week that the state remains on track to launch the new regulated cannabis market by the end of this year.

“We expect the first 20 dispensaries to be open by the end of this year,” Hochul told the Advance Media New York editorial board. “And then every month or so, another 20. So, we’re not going to just jam it out there. It’s going to work and be successful.”

The state began accepting applications for adult-use dispensary licenses on August 25, with the deadline arriving on September 26. New York officials have said that roughly 500 applications had been submitted, while hundreds of applicants were rejected due to being ineligible.

The first dispensary licenses will be designated for individuals who have previously been convicted of a pot-related offense.

“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” Hochul said in her announcement of the policy in March. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”

Hochul’s predecessor, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, legalized recreational cannabis in the state when he signed a bill into law in March of 2021. The measure immediately ended the state’s ban on possession, but the regulated cannabis market was slow to get off the ground under Cuomo, who stepped down as governor in August of last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

After taking over, Hochul made it a priority to get the program up and running, something she touted in her interview with the editorial board last week.

“Talk about the rollout being jammed up. When I became governor, nothing had happened. Nothing. It was shut down because there was a battle between the administration and the legislature over who would be the executive director and the chairs of the cannabis review boards,” she said. “So, I was given a lot of credit because within one week, I named people. I got things going. So, when I speak to people about being part of this industry, the first thing they say is ‘thank you.’ Because otherwise we could still be waiting and waiting and waiting, even for the most basic steps to be taken. So we’ve been moving along quickly.”

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Newsom Signs Bill Protecting California Workers Who Smoke Off-the-Clock

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday signed several bills into law designed to “strengthen California’s cannabis laws, expand the legal cannabis market and redress the harms of cannabis prohibition.”

One of those measures, per local news station ABC10, will protect “workers from employment discrimination based on their use of cannabis while off-the-clock” by stopping companies “from punishing workers who fail a certain type of drug test that detects not whether a person is high, but whether the person has used marijuana at all in recent days.”

“For too many Californians, the promise of cannabis legalization remains out of reach,” Newsom said in a press release on Sunday. “These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry. I look forward to partnering with the Legislature and policymakers to fully realize cannabis legalization in communities across California.”

ABC10 reported that the drug tests in question “rely on urine or hair samples, [and] look for a substance that the body makes when it breaks down THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.”

“But that substance, called metabolites, can remain in a person’s body for weeks after using marijuana, according to the Mayo Clinic. It means people can fail a drug test even though they are not impaired,” the station reported.

The bill protecting off-the-clock weed use passed the California legislature last month.

It was one of several cannabis-related bills signed into law on Sunday by Newsom, whose office said that although “the state has made significant progress since the legalization of cannabis, local opposition, rigid bureaucracy and federal prohibition continue to pose challenges to the industry and consumers.”

One bill will create “a process for California to enter into agreements with other states to allow cannabis transactions with entities outside California,” the governor’s office said, while another bill “preempts local bans on medicinal cannabis delivery, expanding patients’ access to legal, regulated cannabis products.”

A fourth bill will ensure “that Californians with old cannabis-related convictions will finally have those convictions sealed.”

“These bills build on the Administration’s efforts to strengthen California’s cannabis legalization framework. As part of this year’s state budget, the Governor signed legislation to provide tax relief to consumers and the cannabis industry; support equity businesses; strengthen enforcement tools against illegal cannabis operators; bolster worker protections; expand access to legal retail; and protect youth, environmental and public safety programs funded by cannabis tax revenue,” Newsom’s office said in the press release.

The office added: “To expedite policy reforms that prioritize and protect California consumers’ health and safety, the Governor has directed the California Department of Public Health to convene subject matter experts to survey current scientific research and policy mechanisms to address the growing emergence of high-potency cannabis and hemp products. The Governor has also directed the Department of Cannabis Control to further the scientific understanding of potency and its related health impacts by prioritizing the funding of research related to cannabis potency through its existing public university grants.”

It is the second time this month that Newsom has taken action on measures designed to protect Californians’ rights to freely use cannabis.

Earlier this month, Newsom signed a pair of bills that will prevent medical marijuana patients from being discriminated against by physicians and surgeons for a positive THC test.

“Many physicians are under the mistaken impression that they can’t prescribe medication to patients who test positive for cannabis,” California NORML Director Dale Gieringer said regarding the bill.

A study by NORML found that 18.5% of patients have been denied prescription treatment after a doctor learned of their previous cannabis use. 

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California Lawmakers Pass Bill Protecting Workers’ Off-Duty Cannabis Use

California lawmakers on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill to protect employees who use marijuana off the job. If approved by the governor, the legislation would make California the seventh state in the nation to pass employment protections for workers’ off-duty cannabis use.

The measure, Assembly Bill 2188 (AB-2188), would “make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person” solely because of marijuana use while off the job, according to an abstract of the legislation. But Assemblymember Bill Quirk, the sponsor of the legislation, noted that AB-2188 does not allow people to work while impaired by cannabis.

“Nothing in this bill would allow someone to come (to work) high,” said Quirk.

Under the legislation, employers would be prohibited from taking action against an employee for failing a urine or hair screening for cannabis metabolites. Tests that measure or detect the presence of cannabis metabolites only show that the person ingested cannabis at some point, potentially weeks before the sample is taken, and are not an indicator of present impairment.

The legislation is supported by cannabis advocates and labor groups including United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California Nurses Association, CA Board of Registered Nursing, and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930. Supporters of the bill argue that employees should not be punished for using marijuana while off the clock.

“Using outdated cannabis tests only causes employees to feel unsafe and harassed at work, it does not increase workplace safety,” said Matt Bell, secretary-treasurer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324.

The legislation includes several exceptions designed to protect employers. The bill does not apply to workers in the “building and construction trades” or to employees or applicants for positions that require a background check or security clearance under federal regulations. Additionally, the legislation does not preempt any federal or state statutes that require testing for controlled substances and would not apply to employment decisions based on “scientifically valid” pre-employment drug test methods “that do not screen for psychoactive cannabis metabolites.”

California Pioneered Cannabis Legalization

California was the first state to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in 1996, and 20 years later voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) notes that six states (Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Montana and Rhode Island) have enacted laws to protect workers’ use of recreational cannabis off the job and 21 states offer worker protections for medical marijuana patients.

“Cannabis is legal in California, and workers have a right to engage in legal activity while away from the job. Yet countless workers and job applicants are losing job opportunities or being fired because they test positive for legal, off-the-job use of marijuana on account of indiscriminate urine and hair metabolite tests,” said Dale Gieringer, the director of NORML’s California chapter. “Scientific studies have failed to show that urine testing is effective at preventing workplace accidents. Numerous studies have found that workers who test positive for metabolites have no higher risk of workplace accidents.”

The California Chamber of Commerce is opposed to the legislation because it would “create a protected status for marijuana use” in state law that bans discrimination in the workplace.

“Put simply: marijuana use is not the same as protecting workers against discrimination based on race or national origin,” the business association wrote in a letter to state lawmakers.

AB-2188 was first passed by the California State Assembly in May, followed by the approval with amendments by the state Senate on Monday. On Tuesday, the Assembly approved the Senate version of the measure. The bill now heads to the desk of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who has until the end of September to decide its fate. If Newsom signs the bill into law, it will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

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New Rules Published by Transportation Department Warn Medical Examiners of CBD

Draft rules were published on the Federal Register on Aug. 15, which guides medical examiners (MEs) who conduct physical examinations for commercial drivers, and are responsible for certifying drivers for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Called the “Qualifications of Drivers: Medical Examiner’s Handbook and Medical Advisory Criteria Proposed Regulatory Guidance,” these draft rules warn MEs of CBD consumption in their patients, and explain that it could still cause some drivers to fail their exams. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) handbook specifies that drivers may use CBD, because it is federally legal.

The DOT certification lasts for two years, but if drivers use cannabis, they still cannot be qualified, according to the draft’s section called “Use of Scheduled Drugs or Substances.” “A driver who uses marijuana cannot be physically qualified even if marijuana is legal in the State where the driver resides for recreational, medicinal, or religious use,” the rules state.

In its current form, the draft rules caution MEs that although CBD is legal across the country, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate all of the products, and it can’t be guaranteed that a product’s labels do not incorrectly list the amount of CBD, or the accuracy of THC. “The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently determine or certify the levels of THC in products that contain cannabidiol (CBD), so there is no Federal oversight to ensure that the labels on CBD products that claim to contain less than 0.3% by dry weight of THC are accurate. Therefore, drivers who use these products are doing so at their own risk.”

More directly, the rules guide MEs on how to conduct the examination with CBD in mind. “The Agency encourages MEs to take a comprehensive approach to medical certification and to consider any additional relevant health information or evaluations that may objectively support the medical certification decision. MEs may request that drivers obtain and provide the results of a non-DOT drug test during the medical certification process.”

The FMCSA also issued draft rules in 2021 as well, which only briefly mentioned CBD. “The Food and Drug Administration does not currently certify the levels of THC in CBD products, so there is no Federal oversight to ensure that the labels are accurate. Therefore, drivers that use these products are doing so at their own risk.” There was no mention of CBD in the 2020 draft rules, but it did state that cannabis was not allowed.

In July, DOT sent out a newsletter reminding drivers that cannabis use is prohibited, and the current state of unregulated CBD products that could contain more than the legal limit of THC. “Recently, some states and local governments have passed legislation prohibiting employers from testing for marijuana,” the newsletter states. “[Federal Transit Administration] employers are reminded that state and local legislative initiatives have no bearing on DOT regulated testing programs. Marijuana is still a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.”

The newsletter also includes a chart that describes the number of return-to-duty (RTD) drug tests, as well the number of FTA covered employers that are conducting RTD drug tests. One of the potentially telling statistics is the increase in both the number of Return-to-Duty tests conducted and the number of FTA-covered employers performing this type of test,” the newsletter states. “This data indicates a trend toward a ‘second-chance’ policy versus a ‘zero tolerance’/termination policy following a DOT drug violation.” In 2021, there were 892 RTD drug tests, with 236 drug tests by employers who are FTA covered.

In May, Rep. Earl Blumenauer sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, expressing how DOT cannabis restrictions are leading to lost jobs. “The federal government should be making it easier for already-qualified drivers to stay in the profession, not forcing them away. Outmoded and unfair federal drug policies are out of step with reality and directly contribute to the trucking shortage crisis,” Blumenauer wrote. “Too many of the 2.8 million Americans who hold commercial driver licenses are not working because of past cannabis tests and the difficulty they face re-qualifying for duty. Getting these trained, qualified, and capable drivers back on the road will unsnarl supply chains faster and more efficiently. I am very interested in the steps your department is taking to ensure these qualified drivers have opportunities to return to work, regardless of their past cannabis use.”

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