Last week, the Brevard County School Board voted 3-2 to terminate Allison Enright, a teacher at Space Coast Junior/Senior High School. Enright tested positive for THC during a mandatory drug test after she was injured on the job. The teacher explained that she was taking medical cannabis pills instead of addictive opioids to treat her health condition.
Medical marijuana is legal in Florida, and Enright’s use of medical pot did not violate any state law. The school board decided to fire her anyway, though, over concerns that her continued employment could jeopardize their federal funding. Like nearly all public school systems in the US, Brevard County depends on federal grants and funding. The feds are able to revoke this funding for any school that does not strictly follow their drug-free workplace policy, though, and cannabis use is considered a violation of this policy – even if legal under state law.
“I want to make it clear: I don’t do drugs,” Enright told the board, according to Florida Today. “I don’t smoke pot. I don’t get high. … I love teaching. It’s not just what I do, it’s who I am. I have been at a loss without my students and colleagues. Space Coast High is my family, and I want to go back. Please, let me go back home.”
Some members of the board argued that Enright should be disciplined instead of fired, but the majority decided that this might make it hard for them to fire cannabis-using teachers in the future. “I can’t tell you how unfortunate it is that this happened,” said board member Cheryl McDougall, who voted to fire Enright. “I wish we could turn back the clock. But again, I feel like I’m bound to follow (my constitutional duty).”
Enright’s termination is tragic, but hardly unusual. Just last November, another Florida school district fired a military veteran from his job as high school dean for legally using cannabis to treat PTSD. Once again, the school board cited fears over losing their federal funding. Hardworking employees from all across the US have been fired for using (or even talking about) state-legal medical pot, but some states have started passing laws protecting medical pot users from employment discrimination.
It’s difficult for state laws to protect school districts from federal intervention, though. It would require an act of law to protect medical marijuana patients’ right to work. Fortunately, the Democratic Congress finally seems willing to throw down for cannabis reform. The Senate leadership is currently drafting a bill to legalize cannabis federally, but if this fails, there are still more modest reform options. Even a simple bill to reschedule cannabis would make it much more difficult for employers to fire employees over their choice of medicine.