Though medical marijuana use is now legal in 33 states and recreational use has been legalized in 10 states and the District of Columbia, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug and illegal under federal law — leaving schools in danger of losing federal funding under the Drug-Free Workplace Act if educators use marijuana in any form, according to U.S. News and World Report.
This disconnect between state and federal law is creating problems for teachers who use marijuana with a prescription or use it where it is legal while they are on vacation, because that use shows up in drug tests. And while at least six states have enacted laws to make it easier for students to use medical marijuana, they have balked at addressing the same issue for teachers because of the federal ramifications.
While waiting for federal law to catch up with states, some legal experts sees room for “creative solutions” to the problem, such as not requiring drug tests for teachers unless they appear high, creating more specific drug-free workplace policies outlining when it can be used, treating positive tests for marijuana as a negative if the employee has a medical marijuana license, or giving adequate notice before drug tests are given.
With the legalization of marijuana use in a growing number of states, school and district leaders are faced with decisions about how the issue should be handled with students and teachers alike. The issue is further complicated by the growing interest in CBD oil — a related product that does not have all of the same side effects. While states are taking steps to address the issue of medical marijuana administration on the student level, handling it with teachers is more complicated — not only because of federal workplace regulations, but also because teachers are often considered role models for students.
To complicate matters further, some states are now taxing marijuana and using the proceeds to support educational efforts. While this seems to be providing another stream of revenue for education, it also creates a mixed message for young people who are being warned about the dangers of marijuana use on one hand and told that its sale supports education on the other.
While the debate over the legalization of marijuana use wages on, schools need to examine their drug-free workplace policies to see whether they meet current federal laws and the laws in their state. They also need to examine how legalization is affecting drug education programs for students.
While marijuana use is one issue to consider, the growing opioid epidemic, and the use of alcohol are also matters that can affect teacher performance, attendance and judgment in the classroom, and these also need to be addressed in policy discussions. Knowing where to draw the line between protecting schools' and students’ interests and protecting teacher rights is a challenge, and one that while likely require local legal advice to sort out.