Do Teachers Get Drug Tested & Can You Be a Teacher with a Medical Card?
Photo by Adrien King
Marijuana has formed part of the American landscape, with the ending of prohibitions across many states. As science sees changes in how the population perceives cannabis, 21 states have legalized recreational marijuana.
Despite this, the federal government has remained steadfast in its opposition to weed. Today, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal at the federal level. While hopes are that this will change in the future, it leaves teachers in an awkward position.
Can you be a teacher with a medical card, or will it cost you your job? Likewise, do teachers get drug tested? In this article, we answer these questions and more.
Can Teachers Smoke Weed?
Teachers are in an unenviable position because they are considered government employees if they work for a public school district. Public schools relying on federal funds must comply with federal law in a way that supersedes state law, which is why teachers have been fired in the past for consuming cannabis.
Today, just 14 states and Washington D.C. have laws that actively prohibit employers from discriminating against workers who legally consume cannabis in their states. However, many schools may still choose not to hire a teacher if they admit that they smoke, as it could compromise their federal funding.
This is where we enter a gray area because if a state prohibits discrimination due to cannabis, how does this apply to a public school district?
In short, it depends on the state.
Private vs. Public School Teacher Drug Testing
Do they drug test teachers?
Nothing prohibits a public or private school from drug testing teachers. However, the costs inherent in administering a teacher drug test are considerable. According to most estimates, the average drug test for teachers would cost anywhere from $50 to $100 per test, depending on how in-depth the test is.
In the past, states have weighed up the idea of bringing in drug testing for teachers, but these ideas have nearly always fallen by the wayside due to concerns over cost. For example, a Virginia school district discovered it would cost them $55,000 annually to implement drug test teachers.
With 3.2 million public school teachers nationwide, drug testing for ongoing employment would undoubtedly cost countless millions.
Moreover, concerns also exist over privacy. Discussing what kind of drug test do schools use for employment is one thing, but administrators risk inadvertently breaching patient confidentiality rules.
No employee is required to disclose any condition or treatment that has no impact on their ability to do their jobs. Drug testing could reveal legal medications like medical marijuana, allowing the teacher to sue.
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Recent Cases Involving Teachers and Medical Marijuana
Do school districts drug test employees in 2022? Generally, the answer is no because of the costs. However, most school districts will either reserve drug testing as a condition of employment or require a test if they suspect a teacher is consuming illicit substances.
But can you be a teacher with a medical card? Do schools drug test teachers in states where medicinal marijuana has been legalized?
Again, this is an issue for states and school districts to decide.
Hawaii Random Drug Testing 2007
Random drug testing has been proven to be enormously unpopular among teaching staff. In 2007, Hawaii became one of the first states to initiate random drug testing for teachers after several staff was found engaging in illegal drugs.
In exchange for the state teaching union agreeing to the program, all teachers would receive an 11% pay rise.
The action floundered, and by 2011 the program was in the process of being repealed.
Brevard County Schools in Florida 2021
The issue of medical marijuana became a nationwide issue in 2021 when Brevard County Schools in Florida fired teacher Allison Enright for using medical marijuana.
Enright had a valid medical card enabling her to possess and consume medical marijuana legally, but the school district fired her regardless.
It highlighted the fact that marijuana’s prohibition at the federal level meant that Enright had no proper legal protection.
Moreover, Florida has not passed any laws that prevent employers from firing employees for medical marijuana use.
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) 2020
Similar cases have cropped up nationwide. With public school teachers being in such an awkward limbo between federal prohibition and state legalization, extra protections are required to protect them.
In 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that no employee could be fired for legal medical marijuana use. Under the NJLAD law, employees became protected from this discrimination by their employers, including teachers.
Photo by Kenny Eliason
Do Teachers Get Drug Tested When Hired?
Some government postings do require randomized drug testing post-hiring or pre-hiring drug testing.
So, do schools drug test staff when hiring?
Current federal law doesn’t require teachers to be drug tested by any school district. Furthermore, no state laws exist that mandate drug testing for teachers. As mentioned, states like Hawaii and Virginia have considered introducing drug testing, but these plans were shelved.
But do teachers smoke weed? An older study into drug use among educators revealed that just 4% of teachers used drugs, making it a relatively minor problem within the profession. Although the changing legal status of medical marijuana has largely altered these numbers, the answer to “Can you be a teacher with a medical card?” is that it isn’t a problem in many states.
If you’re concerned about applying for a teaching post and your legal marijuana use appearing on a drug test, check with the individual school district as to their drug testing policy. This information will likely be available online.
Remember, public and private schools can set their own policies on drug testing and medicinal marijuana use.
Nearly all school districts will have zero problems if you’re not coming into work impaired or consuming weed on school grounds.
Do Substitute Teachers Get Drug Tested?
Are teachers drug tested if they’re a substitute, and little is known about them?
Generally, no. Individual schools are unlikely to test substitutes every time they report for duty. In addition, many substitute teachers may only attend a school for a day or two. The time it would take to drug test them at every school would be impractical and extremely costly.
But the agencies that employ them and send them to their postings may require drug testing. So, what drug tests do schools use for substitutes? These tests can look for various substances and may include blood, saliva, or urine tests.
Again, every state and school district sets its own policies on drug testing for all teaching staff, whether permanent or substitute.
Can Teachers Smoke CBD?
CBD is an alternative to medicinal weed, but what’s the legality of CBD? As a non-psychoactive substance, the situation is different.
At the federal level, CBD derived from hemp and containing 0.3% THC or less is legal, and in most states, this is also the policy. However, CBD derived from marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance at the federal level. So, once again, you’ll need to examine your state’s CBD product laws.
Do teachers get drug tested for CBD?
Drug tests generally aren’t looking to detect CBD. However, it’s a popular myth that CBD cannot appear on a drug test. In the past, some people have triggered a positive reading on their tests because of CBD consumption.
The same principles apply to CBD as to any THC product. Your state, school district, and school board can set their own policies for teachers and CBD.
If you’re worried, consult your school for further guidance on their policies.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Anand Dugar, an anesthesiologist, pain medicine physician and the founder of Green Health Docs. Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide.