The Louisiana State Senate voted 26-8 on Wednesday to approve a bill that would protect public employees who use medical cannabis from job discrimination. Louisiana’s House of Representatives approved House Bill 988 last week. It now heads to the desk of Governor John Bel Edwards for his consideration.
Under the bill, public employees use medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. Additionally, according to state law, they cannot be fired for using medical marijuana. The bill also protects medical cannabis patients who are applying for state positions from being denied employment. In addition to other job discrimination based on their use of cannabis.
“This would basically be a first step to having laws on the books to protect people who have medical marijuana cards”. State Representative Mandy Landry, the sponsor of the bill, said last month after introducing the bill.
Although. the bill does not apply to private employers or local government agencies, including police and fire departments. Landry told reporters that the legislation was limited to state employees to address likely opposition from politically powerful law enforcement and business lobbyists in the state Capitol.
Medical Cannabis an Alternative to Opioids in Louisiana
The Louisiana House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 60-32 on May 24. Landry told her colleagues that the legislation would help prevent state workers from becoming addicted to opioids. A further argument was echoed in the upper body of the state legislature by Senator Stewart Cathey.
Those suffering from long-term PTSD and pain management are trying to avoid the use of opiates. Further with addiction and the risk of taking opiates, medical cannabis is an amazing alternative.
The bill faced opposition from some lawmakers in the House. Further, those who argued that the legislature should not be drafting policy for state workers.
The state Department of Administration should handle such tasks, according to Representative Larry Frieman. Jacques Berry noted that the Department of Administration has policies that protect its employees that use medical cannabis. Although he added that the department does not have the authority to create employment policy for all state agencies.
State Representative Ed Larvadain supported the bill, further suggesting that more work on cannabis policy reform is yet to come.
“We’re going to have to change how we deal with medical marijuana,” Larvadain said. “Although this is the first step.”
Larvadain offered to work with Landry in the future to find a path. One that makes law enforcement officers and firefighters also eligible to use medical cannabis.
“A lot of those men and women have chronic pains because over the years they’ve had to climb through windows and police officers have been abused,” Larvadain said.
Medical cannabis advocates including Kevin Caldwell of the Marijuana Policy Project also supported the bill.
Additionally, Tony Landry of the Veterans Action Council noted that police officers and firefighters are not able to take CBD because of the risk that trace amounts of THC “can accumulate in your body over time and cause a positive test. I’m in favor of this bill, and I just think we need to leave no employee behind.”