Earlier this week, Florida lawmakers introduced legislation that would provide protections to medical marijuana patients when it comes to drug testing in the workforce. These protections won’t be passed soon enough to help Mike Hickman, a former U.S. Marine, save his job at Belleview High School. Hickman had been working as the Student Services Manager for the school and obtained his master’s degree in the hopes of becoming an assistant principal. After testing positive for cannabinoids, the school board made the decision to let him go.
This all started at the beginning of November 2019, when Hickman injured his shoulder while breaking up a student fight. Naturally, he went to the district’s workers’ compensation doctor, where drug testing is a part of the requirements. After testing positive for cannabis, the Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier recommended he be fired for breaking the zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy.
Hickman, a marine during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the 90s, is a licensed medical marijuana user in the state of Florida. He consumes cannabis as recommended by his doctor to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – and because of it, he has now lost his job.
“To alleviate the effects of PTSD, (Hickman) was prescribed medical marijuana by a licensed physician in accordance with the laws of the State of Florida,” the veteran’s attorney Mark Herdman wrote, explaining that his “use of the legally prescribed medication had no effect on his ability to perform his job duties and responsibilities.”
There will still be a hearing, which will likely be heard by an administrative law judge to allow an impartial opinion. However, even after the hearing, the judge’s recommendation to the board will be taken into consideration, but the board will make the final decision.
“I have no job,” said Hickman, adding that his plan was to retire with a decent pension earned during military service and his time with the district. “I can no longer work in the School District.”
It’s these sorts of situations that the newly introduced state legislation is expected to prevent. If there were proper guidelines on how to handle positive drug screenings when the employee is legally medicating with cannabis, this might not have happened. Since Hickman only medicated at home, when he wasn’t working, it should have had no effect on his employment situation – and no one would’ve known if he hadn’t gotten hurt at his job while ending a student fight. Hopefully, state lawmakers will consider this situation and ensure that the proposed protections are passed this year.