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Job barriers hit some New Mexico medical marijuana patients

November 26, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Some medical marijuana patients in New Mexico are finding a hard time getting jobs in places like Los Alamos National Laboratory thanks to federal requirements on drug testing and a lack of flexibility for applicants.

The New Mexico Department of Health says about 58,000 New Mexicans have legal access to medical cannabis for treatment of approved ailments and diseases, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports .

But national chains and New Mexico employers with ties to the federal government require drug testing that turns up marijuana use, said Jessica Gelay, director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico, a group that seeks to reform marijuana laws.

“It’s a big problem,” Gelay said. “Medical cannabis patients should be able to use their medicine like everyone else, but the federal prohibition is extremely problematic. Our state law has no protections for people who are seeking employment.”

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, in the same category as heroin and LSD, all considered highly addictive and without medical value.

Gelay said she has talked to medical personnel, including nurses, who use medical marijuana and have been ruled out for jobs that require drug testing.

She and other advocates have said states like New Mexico should do more to protect what they describe as the civil rights of medical marijuana patients who are denied employment.

“People should never have to choose between their medication and their employment,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in an email.

Other states, he said, including Arizona, have laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their status as medical marijuana patients.

Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham’s transition director, Dominic Gabello, said Lujan Grisham will try to seek a solution.

Lujan Grisham “will direct a legal review of the matter and work with all stakeholders — employers, law enforcement, health care providers and patients — toward a solution that benefits all parties and protects patients,” Gabello said in an email.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com

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