EMS Workers No Longer Disqualified for Prior Cannabis Use

People registering as first responders in Austin, Texas, no longer need to reveal their prior cannabis use following the lobbying of advocates focusing on cannabis reform in Texas.

In October, Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) changed the work policy after Texas NORML. The local EMS union noticed the matter and sent nearly 3,500 letters to City Council members lobbying for a change.

‘That question [about cannabis use within the last three years] and the associated DQ’er has been banished from both the application for employment and our EMS Recruiting website,” a spokesperson of the EMS governing agency stated.

The district EMS union said that the cannabis reform was all the more relevant given that the lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year that broadened Texas’ limited medicinal cannabis program to encompass post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD in the list of qualifying conditions.

‘Thanks to COVID-19 and the nature of EMS business, many of our first responders are stricken with PTSD,” Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie stated in a press release.

Jax Finkel, executive director of Texas NORML, told publications that the organization ‘is proud to collaborate with Austin first responders to cut back on hiring practices that isolate legal cannabis consumption.’

Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Cannabis Policy, told Cannabis Moment that “both public and private sector employers are beginning to recognize that adults who use cannabis responsibly should not be disqualified for jobs.”

“It’s been a long time coming, but change is happening at all levels thanks to advocacy groups like Texas NORML,” she said.

Earlier this year, we published an article regarding how Texas’ medicinal cannabis program sucks. We also pointed out the injustices and marginalizations associated with cannabis in Texas.

At the same time, cannabis reform activists during the state are working to establish broader cannabis reform provincially and at the state level.

For instance, cannabis reform advocates in San Marcos, Texas, newly launched a campaign to put cannabis decriminalization on the ballot in 2022.

Another campaign on cannabis reform attempted to put cannabis decriminalization on Austin’s ballot this month. Still, cannabis reform activists have since pivoted their plan toward placing the measure in the face of voters in the spring of next year.

Last year, the Austin Police Department renewed its cannabis policy, publishing in a memo that officers will “no longer cite or arrest people with adequate identification for Class A or Class B misdemeanor ‘possession of cannabis’ crimes.’

A large majority of Texans back even more comprehensive reform, according to recent votes. Sixty percent of voters in the state back making cannabis legal ‘for any form of use,’ signaling that local campaigns for more reasonable proposals like cannabis decriminalization will likely preponderate where they are suited for local ballots.

This year’s legislative session in Texas saw various drug policy proposals become successful, including a since-enacted bill requiring a bulk of research into specific psychedelics’ therapeutic potential for military veterans.

Despite this, cannabis reform advocates remain dissatisfied that legislators were unable to pass more comprehensive cannabis laws. This included a cannabis decriminalization proposal that cleared the House of Representatives but saw no life in the Senate.

In 2019, the House of Representatives approved a cannabis decriminalization bill, but the bill did not advance in the Senate that session.

It is unlikely that the bill concerning EMS applicants and workers in Austin, TX, will receive any pushback.

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