NANTY GLO – Effective Nov. 1, Cambria County and its employees will comply with and abide by Pennsylvania's law concerning medical marijuana use – with county leaders pledging not to discharge, threaten, refuse to hire, or discriminate against those certified to use the drug.
The Cambria County commissioners unanimously approved the policy at a meeting Thursday at the Nanty Glo Food Pantry Warehouse.
According to the policy, it will be a county employee's responsibility to notify the human resources department about his or her certification to use medical marijuana.
Under Pennsylvania's Act 16 of 2016, those with serious medical conditions are permitted to obtain marijuana in the form of a pill, oil, liquid, cream or gel for a medicinal purposes only.
The act covers medical conditions such as cancer, Crohn's Disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, sickle cell anemia, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cambria County's policy, however, will not allow medical marijuana use for any county employees in departments under federally mandated drug-free workplace programs – such as sheriff's deputies, probation officers, corrections officers, detectives and coroners.
Bryan Beppler, county human resources director, explained that those positions, in which county employees are permitted to carry firearms as part of their job duties, are held to federal law, which still considers marijuana an illegal substance and prohibits medical marijuana use.
The policy also states that the county may refuse to hire applicants or terminate existing employees certified to use marijuana if their job duties include the operation of a personal or county-owned vehicle for county business, performance of any type of life-threatening tasks or duties that could result in a substantial public health or safety risk, and work with chemicals that require permits from the federal or state governments, involving high-voltage electricity, or tasks performed at heights or in confined spaces.
The county's compliance with the state law will not limit the county's ability to discipline employees for being under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace, the policy says, and the county will also be able to discipline employees for working while under the influence of medical marijuana when an employee's conduct "falls below the standard of care normally accepted for that position."
Beppler explained that a county employee will be considered under the influence if he or she has a blood content of more than 10 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood.
"The protections afforded by the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act only apply to those individuals who have a serious medical condition as certified by a physician and who have obtained a valid permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Health," the policy says.
"Likewise, an employee is not permitted to utilize medical marijuana on Cambria County property or in their workplace."