On Aug. 22, the U.S. Forest Service Human Resources published a notice to remind employees that cannabis consumption is not allowed, even if they live in a state where it’s legal.
“Several states now allow recreational and or medicinal use of marijuana. However, marijuana is still an illegal drug per federal law,” the notice said. “All Forest Service employees must remain drug-free and refrain from illegal drug use whether on or off duty regardless of state laws. There have been no changes to the panel of drugs contained in the list of Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substance Act.”
The notice also listed the current rules for drug testing protocol. First, it warned that any employee can be subjected to drug testing for cannabis if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they have been consuming. Second, employees whose jobs are listed as Test Designated Positions (TDPs) will also continue to be drug tested. “Test Designated Positions generally carry safety or security responsibilities tied to the Forest Service mission. Job functions associated with TDPs relate to public health and safety, the protection of life and property, law enforcement, or national security.”
Finally, should an employee test positive for either cannabis or any other illegal substance they “will be subject to mandatory administrative actions per DR 4430-792-2, Drug-Free Workplace Program, which includes discipline up to removal for the first finding of illegal drug use.”
Although CBD was legalized nationwide through the 2018 Farm Bill, the U.S. Forest Service’s notice states that it is also off limits. “[CBD] can be inaccurately labeled as having no to low levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol, and yet actually contain high levels. If you use CBD, you could test positive for illegal drug use.”
Some U.S. Forest Service Employees are tasked with removing illegal cannabis plants found on national forest land, and cleaning up any trash or other materials left behind. However, in 2018 a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that after reviewing these sites, there was evidence that a proper cleanup was not conducted.
“We performed onsite inspections of eight marijuana grow sites that were eradicated in FYs 2014- 2016 in California and two marijuana grow sites in Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky,” the report states. “Hazardous materials were present at seven of the eight grow sites in California, and infrastructure such as irrigation piping, trash, or equipment were found at all eight sites. The hazardous material and infrastructure were still present several years after eradication for some of the grow sites.”
A study published in July 2019 found that legal cannabis can reduce illegal grows in national forests. “Arguably, our models hint that outright, national recreational cannabis legalization would be one means by which illegal grows on national forests could be made to disappear,” the researchers wrote. They also stated their belief that taxes on legal cannabis is what drives people to cultivate illegally on federal land.
Other agencies in the U.S. are also updating or reiterating current rules and restrictions of cannabis for employees. Last August, data showed that commercial truck drivers consumed cannabis more than any other substance. However in May 2022, the U.S Department of Transportation shared that 10,276 commercial truck drivers tested positive for cannabis, and this violation of the department’s rules contributed to a nationwide shortage of drivers who couldn’t keep their jobs. Most recently in August, draft rules were published on the Federal Register that warned medical examiners of commercial drivers that CBD could still contain THC, which is not allowed. “A driver who uses marijuana cannot be physically qualified even if marijuana is legal in the State where the driver resides for recreational, medicinal, or religious use,” the rules stated.