Are There Any Nursing Jobs Where You Can Smoke Marijuana Without Getting Reprimanded?
Are there any nursing jobs where you can smoke marijuana without getting reprimanded? In short, probably not. Obviously, over the last decade, more and more states have recognized or legalized either the use of medical marijuana or recreational marijuana as well. However, just because the state recognizes medical marijuana use and you have a medical marijuana card or recognizes recreational use, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be fired by your employer for a positive either pre-employment drug screen or even a for-cause drug screen while you’re working there for several reasons. First, the nature of providing patient care means that a nurse simply cannot be impaired in any way to provide safe patient care.
Nurses Who Smoke or Use Marijuana May be Fired
And due to the nature of marijuana staying in the system for a period, it would be very difficult for a nurse to provide evidence or convince any employer that a positive drug screen was due to using completely outside of working hours or had no carryover effect that involved impairment in any way. Additionally, almost every state is an at-will employment state, and what that means is the employer can terminate an employee for any reason, at any time, without notice. Now, there are some protections if you’re a nurse practitioner, perhaps a CNA, and you have an employment contract or independent contractor agreement.
But if you’re a CNA, LPN, RN, or anything equivalent to that, most of the time, you’re an at-will employee, and they can just fire you for any reason. So, even if you tested positive for marijuana, but you prove somehow that it was outside of the normal working hours, they still could just let you go anyway. The only thing an employer can’t do is fire you for discriminatory reasons or retaliation in some way. And in most states, your opportunity or legal right to smoke marijuana is not a protected right that you can’t be fired for. So, what are some things you can do if you want to continue to use marijuana but don’t want to get in trouble at work?
How to Continue Using Marijuana Without Getting Reprimanded
Well, first, for any pre-employment drug screen that you’re going to take, you must abstain from taking marijuana for a period of time. You know when you’re applying for a job, and you know that if it’s a healthcare facility, they’re going to give you a pre-employment drug screen. You must be clean for that. That’s the first and easiest thing to do. Now, if you want to continue to use marijuana while you’re working, the best way to avoid any drug screen is not to show any size of impairment while you’re working. So, specifically with marijuana, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and reacting in a slow manner are all huge red flags, obviously. And I’m not advocating for taking it while you’re working. If you’re going to use it, then you should do it outside of patient care hours and well before any time that you’re going to be providing any patient care.
However, if anyone suspects that you’re impaired, you are going to be given a for-cause drug screen if you’re working for a reputable organization. And if you test positive after a suspected impairment, there’s almost no scenario where you’ll keep your job. You’ll be terminated and reported to the Board of Nursing in whatever state you’re in. So, to answer the question, are there any nursing jobs where you can’t be reprimanded for using marijuana? Most likely not if there are suspected impairment while you’re working, or you test positive on a pre-employment drug screen. Hopefully, that answered the question.
Can You be a Nurse with a Misdemeanor Drug Charge?
Can you be a nurse with a misdemeanor drug charge? Obviously, this is not going to be state-specific. I’m just going to give you general tips and things to think about if you’re going to apply for your nursing license. I know that many people that read these blogs are also maybe thinking of going into nursing school and are thinking, alright, well, maybe I can get into nursing school, but I can’t get a license, and I just wasted a bunch of time and money. So, I’m going to talk more about applicants or maybe even people that are thinking of going to nursing school. This is not going to be directed towards currently licensed nurses.
Alright, so you have a past misdemeanor drug charge which could be a possession of a bunch of different drugs, potentially distribution. There are some misdemeanor distribution charges as well. If you’ve been convicted, you’ve either gone to trial and lost or most likely reached a plea with the prosecutor, and then you had to do community service, fines, maybe some drug counseling, treatment, whatever it is, the board cares about convictions for the most part and not just charges.
It doesn’t mean you’ve ultimately been found guilty if you’re just charged with a crime. Only when you’ve been convicted or reached a plea, or maybe went into a pretrial diversion program, that’s where most boards find that the nurse, in their minds, would be convicted. So, if you’ve had one misdemeanor possession of marijuana from 20 years ago, that will not keep you from getting your nursing license, let’s just say.
What Does the Nursing Board Usually Look For in Drug Charges?
When a board looks at the criminal pass of a nurse, they’re going to run two things. They’re going to ask in the application, and this changes from state to state, but usually, they’ll ask: do you have any felony convictions? And then two, potentially, do you have any misdemeanor charges involving substance abuse? It does vary from state to state. You need to look at the specific language in the application of the state that you’re looking to apply to and then just see what you have to disclose. And then, the board is also going to write a criminal background check. Then anything that pops up in that criminal background check will likely reach out to you and ask you to give a summary of what happened and maybe even potentially provide them with the police records or court documents, so keep that in mind.
Now, in a board’s mind, what they care about is that they’re going to license safe nurses that don’t have drug problems. And the board’s stated mission is to protect the public. They’re not there to protect the nurse, so they will see how many different misdemeanor drug charges or convictions they have. If you’ve had 15 in the last three years, that is a big problem, and you will probably not get your license.
If you had, as I said before, maybe one from 20 years ago, almost no chance you wouldn’t get your license. It’s a sliding scale. You need to consider how much time had elapsed from when you had your last conviction until when you applied and then how many you have. You can also think that if you did have a drug problem at the time, what have you done to fix the problem?
If a nurse was addicted to methamphetamine doesn’t mean you won’t get your license, but the board certainly wants to know, alright, if you did have addiction issues, what did you do to solve that problem? Did you go to AA or NA, or did you go to counseling? Did you seek treatment? Maybe you went into inpatient rehab? Or maybe you went into an intensive outpatient treatment program in IOP? Maybe you’ve made some lifestyle changes. Or have a different friend group. Maybe you got away from an abusive spouse. Something like that. There must be a change if there’s just a big cluster of drug problems at a time. There must be some rehabilitation change for the board to feel comfortable with issuing a license.
When Charges Are Frequent and More Than Just a Misdemeanor
Let’s just say it’s a recent number of drug charges, and they think this nurse hasn’t done what they need to do. It’s certainly possible they could issue the license but also put the nurse on simultaneous probation for drug issues. In most states would include random drug testing, supervision at work, maybe some kind of continuing education, a nurse recovery group, counseling, rehab, whatever. I mean, there’s a variety of things they could do. But even if you’ve had a bunch of recent things, but you’re willing to do what it takes to get your license, the board can, as I said before, issue the license but put you on probation. It could be anywhere from 12 to 36 months, sometimes more. And then, if you were to get through that period, your license would no longer be encumbered.
Now, one bad thing about being placed on probation is if an alternative to a discipline program is not available for you. In an alternative discipline program, in most states, there’s a confidential monitoring program where you can do all the things I just listed, but it wouldn’t be public. And it wouldn’t be considered formal discipline. If the board only offers you formal discipline, that’s going to stay in your record, at least in most states, forever. So, you need to think about, alright, even if I do get a license, if I have this blemish on it forever, is that going to dampen the chances of me possibly getting the job I want to get? I would say no, but it is more difficult to find a job if you have a disciplinary history.
Before Attending a Nursing School, Get an Attorney to Review Your Drug Charges or Drug Conviction
So, in summary, if you just have one or two misdemeanor drug convictions, you’re probably fine. The closer to the date that you apply, the more scrutiny you’re going to get from the board. But overall, every situation is a little bit different. What I would suggest, I’m in Arizona, so I only help nurses with the Arizona board.
Before you even apply to a nursing school, it might make sense to reach out to somebody in the state that you’re thinking of applying to, someone who has experience with nursing board issues, and just say, hey, in the past, have you had a similar scenario? And then what is the likelihood of me getting a license once I apply? No one is going to be able to give you a 100% accurate guess, but if someone’s been doing the nursing board for a long time, they can usually give you a decently accurate, I guess, estimation of whether they think you would get licensed or not. And then maybe if there was disciplinary action attached to that or not.