WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) – A Florida city fired a top information technology manager for smoking marijuana – despite being authorized by his doctor to legally use it on medical grounds.
West Palm Beach fired Jason McCarty, its assistant chief of information technology, after a urine test found marijuana in its system – something he told them before the test they would find.
McCarty, a 50-year-old father of two, has a medical marijuana card that allows him to legally purchase a pot at a pharmacy and says he smoked a joint the night before his sample to treat anxiety and insomnia relieve caused by the severity of his mother’s disease, according to the Palm Beach Post.
McCarty was tested last month after two employees from the city’s risk management department believed he behaved suspiciously while walking past them during lunch, claiming he smelled a pot near his car, and reported him.
McCarty denies pot smoking at work. He’d been in the job for five years and had a flawless record, but the city has a strict policy against marijuana use, even when it’s used legally and outside of work hours. Florida voters overwhelmingly voted for a measure to legalize medical marijuana in 2016.
Five other employees filed affidavits saying they had never seen McCarty under the influence, including the day he was reported.
“I just find it outrageous and insulting,” said his attorney Russell Cormican Jr. People’s lives can turn around. It is really wrong. “
City spokeswoman Kathleen Walter told the Post that the policy was designed to protect their workers and the public. Allowing employees to smoke marijuana could jeopardize federal grants and contracts. While Florida is one of the numerous states that have partially or fully legalized marijuana use, it is still against federal law.
In 2019, the city revised page 13 of its 15-page drug use policy for employees to read, “The use of marijuana by city employees, including medical marijuana, with or without a prescription, is prohibited.” A prescription is not a valid explanation for a positive drug test result accepted by an employee, it says in the guideline.
The policy also states that any employee who reasonably suspects an employee of illicit drug use and fails to report that they may be fired. Walter said this required risk management staff to report to McCarty.
Cormican points out that the policy also states that violations could be punished “until terminated”. He believes firing a model employee for legal marijuana use is extreme.
McCarty hasn’t decided whether he’ll sue the city.
“He’s not trying to be a medical marijuana martyr,” said Cormican. “He just wants a job.”
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