MDC officer faces dismissal for medical marijuana use

Posted at: 12/07/2012 9:16 PM
Updated at: 12/07/2012 10:36 PM
By: Joe Vigil, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The Bernalillo County jail is dealing with a controversial issue that is quickly raising debate about the use of medical marijuana.

Metro Detention Center officials confirm to KOB Eyewitness News 4 that a corrections officer has been placed on leave for a positive drug test.

MDC also says that officer is a medical marijuana user. The officer could now be fired.

"It seems that it is not appropriate under state law because the State of New Mexico has recognized the right of patients to use medical cannabis for various reasons, in consultation with their doctor and under their doctor's supervision," said lawyer John McCall.

McCall helped write New Mexico's medical marijuana law.

MDC officials tell KOB 4 that drug use is inappropriate for a safety sensitive environment.

MDC Chief Ramon Rustin tells KOB the officer could be fired because he wants officers to be "100% aware" because of numerous life and death situations in jail that could happen very quickly.

MDC officials say jail staff face random group drug testing, and the officer was part of one such group.

Rustin says the incident could be groundbreaking. He says it's the first time it's come up in his 33-year career, and the first time at MDC.

The issue certainly raises the question whether other corrections officers around the state could face termination if they use medical marijuana.

And what about police officers, firefighters, medical personnel or Federal, state, county and city workers? McCall thinks it's an issue medical marijuana users may eventually face.

"People are going to have to consult with lawyers unfortunately," he said.

MDC has not named the corrections officer who is now on leave.

Rustin says there may be a decision next week whether the employee will be fired.