Florida Health Care License

Medical Marijuana | What Florida Nurses Should Know

How does the Board of Nursing view medical marijuana?

From time to time our firm encounters these questions from APRNs. Usually, it is a situation where a nurse has tested positive for marijuana and then the employer reports it to the Board of Nursing. The Board of Nursing exists not to protect the nurse but the public.

What's the Difference with Medical Marijuana?

First, one thing needs to be made clear: the legalization of what is known as "medical marijuana" did not make its use and impairment by a nurse in a healthcare facility legal. Put another way: you can't be high at work.

Florida law has a procedure for those who wish to obtain medical marijuana. It's not a prescription by the way, because the Food and Drug Administration does not recognize pot as medically recognized medicine or treatment. It's called a "certificate" not a prescription. To obtain a certificate, you have to go to a physician who is authorized by the DOH to write certifications for obtaining it.

The Problems with Testing Positive for Medical Marijuana

The problem is encountered usually when a nurse who has a valid "certification" for use of medical marijuana tests positive in an employer-sponsored pre-employment or employment drug test. As many who read this blog know, if you test positive for drugs or medication in a health care setting, the employer is duty bound to report you to your professional board. Even if there is no sign of impairment readily obvious.

Key concept: if you take anything away from this blog it is this:

  1. The key thing the Board of Nursing is concerned about is whether the nurse is safe to practice.
  2. Does the nurse have a valid certification for use of medical marijuana that they can show to the employer?

But please note, even if you have a medical marijuana card and can show it to your employer if you are observed at work or perceived as being "impaired" on the job, the employer has the right to drug test you or report you to the Board of Nursing.

I often give the example, beer is legal but you can't come to work: a) with noticeable amounts in your system; b) showing signs of impairment; or c) just flat out "drunk." Even though it's legal, the hospital, nursing home or other health care employer has the right to protect the public if they perceive impairment.

Under current Florida law, Section 456.072(1)(hh), F.S., sets forth, as grounds for disciplinary action against a health care practitioner, being terminated from a treatment program for impaired practitioners, which is overseen by an impaired practitioner consultant, for failure to comply, without good cause, with the terms of the monitoring or treatment contract entered into by the licensee; or for not successfully completing any drug treatment or alcohol treatment program. Similarly, there are requirements for health care practitioners to report other practitioners who may be impaired.

In summary, medical marijuana is legal, impairment at work is not.

To protect your license always be aware of the requirements of the law and what you need to protect your APRN, RN, LPN, or CNA license.

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