Florida Teacher and Veteran Suspended Over Medical Marijuana Use

Marijuana in the classroom
Michael Hickman, a student services manager at Belleview High School in Florida and a Marine veteran with PTSD, faced suspension from his job after his use of state-approved medical marijuana was revealed during a drug test. The test was conducted after Hickman injured his shoulder while breaking up a fight between two students. In response to such cases, lawmakers Senator Lori Berman and Representative Tina Polsky proposed the Medical Marijuana Employee Protection Act, aiming to safeguard employees and job applicants from being penalized for their legal use of medical marijuana. The Act, however, includes provisions for safety-sensitive jobs where marijuana use could pose a risk.
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Michael Hickman worked as the student services manager at Belleview High School in Florida, but now he faces hearings to determine if he gets to keep his job after his state-approved medical marijuana use was discovered.

Teacher And Veteran Faces Being Fired For Medical Marijuana Use

Hickman, a Marine veteran with PTSD, broke up a fight between two students, injuring his shoulder. After going to the school district’s workers’ compensation doctor, Hickman was drug tested – which was when he tested positive for cannabinoids. Hickman told the doctor he was a medical marijuana patient who uses the medicine to treat PTSD.

The veteran was then promptly suspended without pay; however, the school board soon amended their position and agreed to pay Hickman during suspension until his hearing.

According to Marion County Superintendent, Dr. Heidi Maier:

We moved on the side of caution, we kept our students safe, and most importantly in this case, we followed board policy.

At the time of publication, Hickman is still suspended and no official decision regarding future employment has been reached.

Lawmakers Fight To Change Policy

Drug-free workplace policies have become a problem in many states where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes.

Fighting for this cause, democratic lawmakers Senator Lori Berman of Delray Beach and Representative Tina Polsky of Boca Raton recently filed a set of bills in the House and Senate known as the Medical Marijuana Employee Protection Act (SB 962 and HB 595) for consideration in the 2020 legislative session.

As Berman explains:

We must do our part to ensure that their use of safe and effective medicine will not impede their right to work.

The Act aims to protect both employees and job applicants from being denied, terminated, or otherwise punished for their legal use of medical marijuana. However, the bills do include stipulations for jobs that are more safety sensitive, where marijuana use could pose a safety risk to the individual or someone else.

Florida isn’t the first state to realize that employees need protection if they want to use medical marijuana – even if they only use it on their own time. There have been lawsuits across the country where patients have had to defend their right to safe medicine and a reliable job. To avoid the need for such lawsuits, some states have already implemented laws to protect employees and patients.

Constituents remain hopeful that Florida will soon become one of the states where employees no longer face the risk of losing their job over their choice in medicine.

Updated: July 27, 2023

Article Written By:

Julia Granowicz

Julia is a professional writer specializing in medical cannabis and alternative health reporting.


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