Utah firefighter who uses medical marijuana for chronic back pain sued the town of Ogden, claiming he was illegally suspended from duty for refusing to hand over his prescription card .
Levi Coleman said in a November trial that firefighters and the city discriminated against him in violation of Utah’s medical cannabis law, the Standard-Examiner reported.
Coleman has been a firefighter and paramedic with Ogden since 2011. He reported his use of the drug in August, as part of a new policy requiring employees to report prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs that warn of possible tampering.
He underwent a “fitness for duty” assessment, which he said did not include a drug test or a physical fitness test. The report nonetheless found that the use of medical cannabis created “potential impairment” that could interfere with its performance, the lawsuit said. He was then suspended without pay, amounting to dismissal.
Firefighters and city officials declined to comment directly on Coleman’s allegations on Friday. Mark Johnson, the city’s administrative director, said officials had general concerns about people who might be driving fire trucks or providing life-saving care.
“We have great policy concerns with public safety people taking any form of controlled substances,” Johnson said. “So I think it’s a lot mudder than you pretend.”
Coleman said in the lawsuit that other prescriptions for controlled substances had not resulted in suspensions. The standard examiner could not immediately reach his lawyer.
In the first report on the case, the Salt Lake Tribune noted that state law prohibits an entity from taking action against an employee, unless the person is weakened on the job.
“This firefighter follows state law. The employer is not, ”Jack Tidrow, president of the Utah Professional Fire Department, told the Tribune. “We just want to fix this as quickly as possible.”
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