While Connecticut state law may allow for a citizen's medicinal marijuana use, when considering the hiring or retention of a police officer, the use of medical marijuana should raise an immediate red flag with respect to their employability and authority to do their job.
While there may be a political tide, ebbing toward normalizing recreation and “medicinal” use of marijuana and THC-derivatives, that tide is pushing against the public policy concerns about the very real effects of marijuana use and the entrustment of firearms to citizens.
In its recent decision in Stratford Police Department v. Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, et al., the Superior Court found that use of medical marijuana precluded eligibility to carry a firearm, an essential element and expectation of the job description for any police officer in Connecticut. While the case did not deal with police offers per se, it is illustrative and flatly rejects any use of marijuana by law enforcement officers.
Rose Kallor has always advised that use or possession of marijuana, even with a medicinal license, disqualifies an officer from lawfully serving the public. Why? Because, setting aside the issue of impairment, marijuana is a Schedule I drug under federal law and, consequently, the possession of or use of marijuana—even for medicinal purposes—constitutes a felony.
In Stratford Police Department, the Superior Court agreed and found that the applicant, Richard Solitis—because of his use of medicinal marijuana—could not be licensed to carry a firearm in Connecticut. The Court based its decision primarily on the fact that the drug's Schedule I standing would result in a felony offense for possession and use.
In this case, Connecticut's pistol permit statute, by its plain language, indicates that “persons convicted of a felony” are ineligible to receive a permit and, on that basis, Solitis was rejected. Interestingly, however, was the fact that Solitis had not been formally convicted: the mere fact that possession and use of marijuana would constitute a felony was enough to bar him from a permit.
Thus, medical marijuana use—a federal felony—is an instant bar to firearm permit approval. For any police department, the inability to obtain a permit and carry a firearm prevents any officer from doing his or her job.
There has also been support for this position at the federal level. In Bensey v. City of Bridgeport, the District Court considered the suspension of a police officer on the basis of his use of medicinal marijuana and a suit contesting that suspension as discriminatory under Connecticut public employment law. While acknowledging that Connecticut may afford protection to state employees in their use of medical marijuana, federal law plainly prohibits individuals who use marijuana from possessing firearms precisely because it is at odds with federal law.
In short, medical marijuana use in Bensey disqualified an officer from serving the City of Bridgeport because he couldn't carry a firearm. As the Court aptly noted, you simply cannot perform your job of upholding the law if you are also in violation of federal law.
If you have questions about how to handle cases of officers using medicinal marijuana or seek guidance on how to handle issues of medical marijuana in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced team at Rose Kallor at 860.361.7999.