I am going to write about the effect of the Federal government removing marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance and the impact that it would have on administrative investigations and employee discipline. I want to start out by stating that there are arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana. Those that argue for it base their argument on the possible medical benefits of marijuana and the idea that it is no worse for you than the legal alcohol that people are consuming on a daily basis. Those that are against it argue that it is harmful to society and that individuals tend to commit more illegal acts when under the influence of drugs. Marijuana has long been known as the gateway drug and many fear that its legalization would push those that are not doing it because it is illegal to doing it just because it is legal. That fact may drive them to experimenting with other illegal drugs. As a law enforcement officer and a former Drug Recognition Expert, I fall on the opposing side of marijuana legalization. I feel that the more legal options that individuals have to get impaired the more impairment officers will be fighting on a daily basis.
As far as how it would impact administrative investigations and employee discipline would all depend on how the individual states chose to regulate marijuana use and what policies individual departments adopted concerning the use of marijuana. I feel that one of the first issues that will have to be overcame is the legal or presumptive limit of THC will be allowed. For example, in South Carolina the presumptive limit of alcohol is 0.08% BAC, what will be the allowable limit for marijuana. Another issues that will have to be overcame is proving impairment as past experience has taught me that measurable amounts of marijuana tend to stay in the body for different lengths of time depending in the person’s body make-up. For example, if a department has a zero tolerance policy for alcohol and drugs, and an employee is involved in a work related incident and during the investigation a smell of marijuana is detected. The officer is questioned about the smell of marijuana and he or she states that they used it while off-duty the day before and the smell is in their uniform. Since the State and Federal governments have said that it is legal the department cannot tell them they can’t use it on their off time. The officer is not showing any signs of impairment but due to the smell he or she is sent for a drug test and marijuana is found in their system, what will be the allowable limit?
A final issue is the amount of time that it takes to get test results back. In South Carolina there is a huge back log at the state testing lab and it is currently taking six months or longer to get drug test results back. What do you do with the employee while awaiting test results? Also, like alcohol, the body will begin to build a tolerance to marijuana and the individual will have to smoke more and more to achieve the desired high, and the more you dose up the longer it may stay in the person’s system.
In conclusion, I would submit that removing marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Federal government would cause great pains in administrative investigations and employee discipline. I feel that before the states could begin legalizing it there would have to be extensive research conducted to allow investigators to determine impairment such as the test used for detecting alcohol impairment with the different BAC testing machines. Laws would have to be written that would control and regulate the use and sale of the marijuana as well as extensive and in depth policies adopted by police agencies. I feel that the administrative investigation would be the toughest part because once it is determined that wrongdoing occurred the punishment would just have to fit the infraction. Overall, I just feel that it is too risky to allow law enforcement officers to get involved in the use of drugs that could have a lasting effect on their immediate performance on the job.