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Should City of Austin employees be allowed to use low-THC medical marijuana?

This comes after medical marijuana was expanded in Texas last year.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin leaders are considering whether city employees should be allowed to use low-THC medical marijuana.

According to a memo dated March 25, the conversation started after House Bill 1535 became a Texas law on Sept. 1, 2021. HB 1535 adds all forms of cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions and doubles the amount of THC allowed in marijuana products from half a percent to 1%.

On Sept. 19, 2021, the Public Safety Committee had a briefing on the law as well as the City of Austin's drug testing policies related to marijuana.

In the memo sent to Mayor Steve Adler and the Austin City Council members, the assistant city manager said, "research indicates federal law and regulations effectively prohibit certain job functions from using any form of cannabis that remains illegal under federal law."

The memo suggests that officers with the Austin Police Department and arson investigators with the Austin Fire Department not be permitted to use low-THC cannabis because they own or use a firearm. It's also recommended that city employees who have a commercial driver's license "who are engaged in safety-sensitive work cannot be permitted to use low-THC cannabis."

The memo also said that because marijuana is still a "schedule 1 narcotic under federal law," cannabis must stay out of City of Austin workplaces.

In preparing the memo, the assistant city manager said cities and agencies in Texas and other states were contacted to determine whether they allow their first responders to use medical marijuana outside the workplace. Boston officials said they allow prescription marijuana, while nine other cities said prescription marijuana is not allowed. Many cities did not respond to the question, the memo said.

In November of last year, KVUE reported that Austin-Travis County EMS revised its job application by removing a disqualification for prior marijuana use in hopes of increasing applicants as they struggle to fill positions. 

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