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Can EMTs, Police Officers, and Firefighters Use Cannabis?

  • Every state has its own laws regarding the use of medical cannabis by EMTs, police officers, firefighters, and other law enforcement officers
  • In Lousiana, first responders do not qualify for the state’s medical cannabis program—however, this may not always be the case
  • Since marijuana remains federally illegal, many state agencies continue to prohibit first responders from accessing medical cannabis
  • If you’re a first responder ineligible for medical cannabis treatment, consider consulting with your employer, contacting your representatives, changing careers, or exploring THC-free CBD treatment options

If you’re considering using cannabis for anxiety but you work as a first responder, do you qualify for your state’s medical cannabis program?

According to cannabis laws in Louisiana, the answer is no—for now. In other jurisdictions, firefighters, EMTs, and law enforcement officers are at the mercy of their state’s laws, too.

While we don’t recommend putting your job security in jeopardy by breaking the law, patients with restricted access to medical cannabis have options: like talking to their representatives, trying other holistic treatments, or even switching careers.

In this guide, we’re helping first responders get the full picture of their medical card eligibility and find the care they need to thrive.

Louisiana Law, Medical Cannabis, and First Responders

At present, cannabis laws in Louisiana do not protect firefighters, EMTs, police officers, and other first responders from drug testing in the workplace—despite the state’s relatively comprehensive medical cannabis program.

However, there are two important things to note about Louisiana laws:

  • The tides are changingAs recently as 2022, Louisiana state lawmakers were fighting to protect first responders in need of medical cannabis treatment from workplace discrimination. Unfortunately, legislative efforts haven’t yet passed, but some lawmakers (like Louisiana House Representative Mandie Landry) have vowed their unyielding dedication to the cause.
  • Affected communities want change – First responders (especially veterans) in Louisiana have spoken out in support of workplace protections for medical marijuana patients. Between existing legislative commitments and pressure from people in the affected professions, change is on the horizon.

Unfortunately, present regulations effectively prevent first responders from accessing the safe, legal, and all-natural medicine available to patients in the private sector and other professions.

Other State Laws

What about states outside of Louisiana? Unfortunately, access depends on specific state laws—and, since marijuana remains federally illegal, many state agencies continue to prohibit first responders from accessing medical cannabis.

To find out if their state allows first responders to get medical cards, prospective patients should:

  • Consult their local laws – Reach out to the agency in your state that oversees the medical marijuana program. While some states have dedicated departments for this, others administer programs through their departments of health or agriculture. Ask an expert if first responders in your area have legal protections for using medical cannabis.
  • Contact an attorney – If you’re looking for specific legal advice, reach out to a cannabis-informed or employment attorney in your area. They can comment on past cases and your current legal standing.

This is the simplest way to find out if you’re eligible for your state’s medical marijuana program if you work as a firefighter, EMT, or law enforcement officer.

What Should First Responders Do?

If you’re not eligible to use medical cannabis because you’re a first responder (which is currently the case in Louisiana), what can you do? Let’s explore some options for prospective patients barred from using medical marijuana.

Consult Employers

If you feel comfortable doing so, consult with your employer about the issue.

That could look like:

  • Initiating a meeting with an HR representative
  • Talking to your supervisor
  • Reaching out to your jurisdiction’s legal department

While you should try to address these subjects gently, with discretion, and with people you trust, you can ask your employer about what would happen if you chose to start medical marijuana treatment. While we don’t encourage anyone to break the law, you should do what you can to collect as much information as possible about your situation.

If your employer confirms that your job would be in jeopardy if you chose to start medical cannabis treatment, consider expressing your opinion on the matter. While you should make it clear that you don’t intend to break the law, making your position known could help sway future policy changes within your specific department.

Pressure Representatives

As you learn more about your eligibility (or lack thereof), don’t forget that laws can change—and that you can play a role in changing them.

TeleLeaf’s founder, Gary Hess, was instrumental in changing Louisiana’s medical marijuana laws. As a combat veteran who had exhausted every treatment option the Western medicine model had to offer, Gary became committed to sparking change and helping others find their well-deserved paths to healing—and it worked. After Gary’s testimony before the Louisiana State Congress, medical marijuana legislation was passed.

In short, you have power as a voter and as a constituent. You can make your voice heard on medical marijuana laws by contacting:

  • Your local government representatives
  • Your state Senator
  • Your state Representative
  • Your governor
  • Federal lawmakers

Instead of simply waiting for change, consider pushing your representatives to incite changes on your behalf.

Make Sensible Decisions

Let’s say that, after talking with trusted superiors in your department, you come to the conclusion that using medical cannabis seems like a low-risk choice.

Before you commit to shirking regulations, remember that your actions could impact:

  • Your family – If you risk your job security by breaking the law, you could subject your family to income loss and legal costs—consider talking to your partner about major career risks like these.
  • Your peers – If you break the law, get caught, and lose your job, your former coworkers could be subject to a crackdown—and if any of them took a similar risk, they could lose their jobs, too.

While you aren’t the only person who stands to benefit if you pressure your employers or representatives to make policy changes, you also might not be the only person to lose if you choose to break the law. So, make decisions that align with your own risk tolerance and the risk tolerance of those around you.

Consider Career Shifts

If you’ve reached a point in your healthcare journey where medical cannabis is the only healing option you have left, it might be time to switch careers to make room for your recovery goals.

While other government jobs might be out of the question for you (though this isn’t always the case—check out our guide to learn more), don’t forget about private sector opportunities that might be compatible with your first response skills, like:

  • Private security work
  • Retail theft prevention
  • Consulting
  • First-response equipment sales
  • Professional development, training, or vocational education

That said, make sure you research the policies of any new jobs you’re considering applying for before starting your medical cannabis treatment. While you might be tired of waiting to get the help you need, it’s best to protect your income and job security for as long as possible.

Consider CBD Treatment

Depending on your state and department’s regulations, you might still have access to medical marijuana treatment—as long as your chosen products only contain CBD instead of THC.

CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant that, like THC, offers a wide variety of health benefits. After the 2018 Farm Bill passed, CBD became federally legal to purchase and use by anyone over the age of 18.

But, before buying CBD oil or starting any treatment, keep in mind that:

  • CBD products aren’t well-regulated – Though CBD is federally legal, patients should use CBD products with caution—while plants and smokeable flowers are relatively well-regulated, products containing CBD (e.g., gummies, tinctures, and oils) generally aren’t. Thus, products that claim to contain only CBD can be contaminated with other compounds, including THC. Before making a purchase, research brands that submit to independent, third-party product testing—this is the safest way to protect yourself from accidental THC ingestion.
  • Your employer may not understand the difference between CBD and THC – Even if you exclusively use federally legal products that can’t cause intoxication (and won’t appear on a THC screening), your employer may still frown upon your CBD treatment. So, use CBD products with discretion to protect your job security.

TeleLeaf: Connecting with Patients from All Walks of Life

If you’re a Louisiana resident and a first responder, you’re currently barred from using medical cannabis—but this likely won’t be the case forever. The cultural stigma around cannabis is slowly dying out, and this all-natural medicine may eventually be accessible to everyone.

When the time is right to get your medical card, reach out to TeleLeaf: the best online medical marijuana card service out there. Our licensed, compassionate providers will talk to you about your health concerns, fill you in on the specifics of the law, and help you complete the medical card process with efficiency and ease.

Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact TeleLeaf to start your journey.


Sources: 

WAFB 9. Veterans and first responders speak out against workplace discrimination for medical marijuana.
https://www.wafb.com/2022/11/29/veterans-first-responders-speak-out-against-workplace-discrimination-medical-marijuana/

Healthline. 6 Health Benefits of CBD Oil—And a Look at Side Effects.
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cbd-oil-benefits

National Library of Medicine. Cannabidiol (CBD) product contamination: Quantitative analysis of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) concentrations found in commercially available CBD products.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35690015/

Forbes. Does CBD Show Up on a Drug Test?.
https://www.forbes.com/health/cbd/does-cbd-show-up-on-a-drug-test/

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