Pennsylvania License Defense Blog

The Professional Work Place -- No Place for Medical Marijuana

My blogs focus on the intersection of life and your professional license. A significant public policy debate is raging about medical marijuana, recreational marijuana usage, and the licensed professional. This is you - nurses, pharmacists, doctors, or any other Pennsylvania or New Jersey licensed professional. I recently weighed in on this conversation in an article published in the National law Journal, American Law Media's website. The Professional Licensee and Medical Marijuana: Just Say No! (hit the 411 Link on my web page).  411 Medical Marijuana and the Licensee On August 10, 2018, a federal judge issued a decision affirming an employer's ability to discipline and terminate an employee who fails an employment related drug test for medical marijuana. The employee, a forklift operator, with a known prior work-place injury was taking prescription opiate medications, was asked to take a drug test as a condition of continued employment. The employer compelled a drug-free workplace consistent with federal occupational health and safety work conditions. The employee indicated he would fail the drug test because he ingested prescription medicine, specifically medical marijuana. The employee argued the decriminalization of medical marijuana under New Jersey's Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act ("CUMMA") and Law Against Discrimination ("LAD") compelled the employer to make an accommodation. The employer denied an accommodation, terminating the employee for refusing to take the drug test. (The same result would occur if the employee tested positive for marijuana.) The employee sued in federal court. The court determined neither CUMMA nor the Law Against Discrimination takes priority over an employer's drug free work place rule. The employer was merely enforcing OSHA's and the federal criminal law regarding drug free work places. Here, the employer argued, in the work place the federal supremacy clause voided states' laws allowing for medical marijuana and the decriminalization of recreational marijuana usage. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are at will employment states allowing for employees to be fired for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. The current federal and state versions of the American With Disabilities Act have created a legal landscape in which it is unlawful to discriminate against current or potential employees who suffer from a disability. These laws seek to level the employment hiring playing field - a disability should not preclude hiring in a job they could do. These employees can still be fired or not hired if the extent of the disability precludes the performance of the particular employment. In this case, the court evaluated the fork lift operator's claim under the four prong test determining that a disability was present, medically based, and constituted a physical handicap. The court determined the employee was qualified to perform the essential functions of the job and that his handicap should not preclude him from enjoying equal access to employment due to discrimination. However, the court framed the issue thereafter as distinguishing a treatment (medical marijuana) from a disability (needing a wheelchair). In this case, as with all medical marijuana cases, the employer has a drug-free workplace condition of employment. The court was tasked with determining the legality a drug-free workplace as a condition of employment regardless of the medical treatment needs of the employee. New Jersey's criminal code 2C:35-18 and administrative law 24:6I-6(a) eliminate criminal and civil/administrative penalty for medical marijuana use. However, most states also allow employers to not accommodate the medical use of marijuana in the workplace. As well federal law still prohibits the use and possession of marijuana. Unfortunately, medical marijuana cases involve this singular unique determining factor; existing federal law stating marijuana is illegal. This is the distinguishing factor between going to work under the influence of prescribed opiate painkillers and prescribed medical marijuana. This case involves an individual operating a forklift. Many of my clients are nurses, pharmacist, surgeons, realtors, engineers, respatory therapists, radiology technologist, pulmonary specialist, massage therapist, ophthalmologist, optometrists, dermatologist.   Each of these professionals will not be permitted to work in an environment where their professional judgment, skills, and capability is compromised as a result of illegal use of marijuana or the necessary medicinal use of marijuana in a therapeutic dose as a result of suffering from a medical condition that is not able to be treated with any other medication.

Alternatives to medical license revocation

If you are facing a potential revocation of your medical license, having an attorney by your side may help sway the board to choose an alternative action.

Read on to learn more about disciplinary measures that may be imposed as an alternative if the board finds that your license or certificate could be refused, suspended or revoked.

The steps to obtaining a medical license

Obtaining the right to practice medicine in the United States is an honor that some doctors work for over the course of years or even decades. They may commit themselves to years of rigorous study as well as internships and residencies during which they may become more experienced with hands-on practice in their area of medicine. A doctor who practices in Pennsylvania or another state likely also went through the process of applying for and receiving their medical license.

The process of obtaining a medical license can take several months, and that period of time includes the weeks it may take an applicant to prepare their application and the months it may take for the licensing board to make a determination. According to the American Medical Association an applicant for a medical license may have to wait around 60 days to learn if they have been granted one by the applicable governing board.

Drug Recognition Experts - Legal or Illegal Marijuanna Use -- Pa Licensed Professionals

Last Week I published an article about Medical Marijuana.  Just Say NO.  https://www.phila-criminal-lawyer.com/Attorneys/Richard-Q-Hark.shtml

One Of Life's Passions -- Cycling

Life's passions provide balance and guidance in managing both work, family, and personal challenges. One of my life's passions is cycling. A Tour de France competitor I am not. Waking up early and enjoying a sunrise on a distant road in fog or cold weather does make me happy. On a recent trip to Boston for my son's soccer tournament I was able to do just this.

Helping you protect your medical license from drug allegations

A person can spend years and even decades of their lifetime working toward a specific career goal: practicing medicine. After they complete their educational training they may have to sign on for a lengthy residency where their knowledge and skills are put to the test to determine if they are ready to work unsupervised with patients. Even after completing a residency a doctor may still be asked to complete further training if they wish to specialize in a particular area of their chosen field.

Throughout the entire process of becoming a doctor an individual must submit to tests that examine their understanding of medicine and the proper methods of treating patients who suffer from particular harms. The time, effort and money that Pennsylvania doctors put into their craft may eventually be rewarded with the medical license they need in order to help patients within the state.

Nursing Homes and Staffing Level Study -- It is a Lose-Lose Work Environment

My clients are medical professionals working in emergency rooms, surgery centers, mini-clinics, rehabilitation homes, and hospitals. The majority however work in nursing homes. The clients are on the front lines of our modern medical war on cost cutting and corporate profit maximization.

Will I have to do a background check to practice nursing?

Nurses are trusted with more than just patient care in Pennsylvania hospitals and clinics. They have access to their patients' records, prescriptions, personal effects and other sensitive information. Because they have such open access to the critical and sometimes delicate data on those who are under their care they must be able to demonstrate their trustworthiness when they seek to obtain employment in the state.

For this reason individuals who wish to practice nursing in Pennsylvania must submit to criminal background checks. The Board of Nursing requires that recent background checks be provided by applicants for licenses from the different states where the applicant lived. Without completing the criminal background check process an individual may be denied the license they need to perform the work they are trained to do.

Criminal charges can impact D.O. licensing

Individuals who complete the rigors of medical school and who emerge from their post-graduate research and residencies are often asked to pass a battery of tests to demonstrate their knowledge and experience in the particular fields of medicine that they have chosen to pursue. If they are successful they may obtain licenses to practice medicine, which are necessary to find employment in hospitals, clinics and other medical centers throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

Although most readers are probably familiar with medical doctors, or those whose names end with the initials "MD", doctors who attend osteopathic schools also may obtain professional licenses so that they too can diagnose and treat individuals suffering from medical ailments. These medical professionals end their titles with "DO" designations.

DRE -- WHAT IS A DRUG RECOGNITION EXPERT

What is a drug recognition expert. A drug recognition expert typically is a police officer with one week of additional training in the physical manifestations certain drugs have on the human body. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) coordinates the International Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition to officers, who are certified as DREs, the DEC Program educates prosecutors and toxicologists on the DRE process and the drug categories.

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