As employers across the nation take a more lax approach to testing potential employees for marijuana, it’s still considered a no-no in the Florida Keys.
From coast to coast, eight states and the District of Columbia allow recreational marijuana use, while Florida is in a group of 29 states allowing use of medical marijuana.
That does not change the fact that several of Monroe County’s largest employers still test for a wide array of drugs, including pot.
Of the private-sector employers the Weekly called, none exempted marijuana from the banned substances.
All of Ocean Reef Club’s 1,100 in-season employees must pass a broad-spectrum drug test to work at the largest private-sector employer in the Keys.
“We have everything from bartenders, food and beverage servers to engineers, those in the accounting departments, tennis pros … everything you would imagine at a private club,” said Molly Carroll, director of communications.
In Florida, 71 percent of voters in the 2016 general election supported the availability of medical.
That was far more than the 60 percent needed to pass state constitutional Amendment 2, allowing pot as treatment for patients with specific diseases.
But the details were hazy and it took a while for the state to decide how people with those diseases should be able to consume the prescribed pot.
What comes out of a dispensary is not the leafy green associated with the word “marijuana,” and the state has yet to approve the (smoke-able) THC flower as a delivery method.
Patients with cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and muscle spasms qualify for low-THC cannabis, sometimes prescribed in liquid form delivered under the tongue with a dropper. A patient whose condition is imminently terminal can qualify for full-potency medical marijuana with certification from two physicians.
Because each dispensary has different plants, it’s like testing different brands of cola, said Key West physician Dr. John Norris.
“They all taste different,” he said. “Dosing this is a nightmare. It all depends on what you’re getting, and because they’re all different, it’s not like I’m prescribing a specific dose.”
Still, the message from patients and organizations to the state is that people have the right to smoke it, he said.
“We’re actually not concerned about whole flower getting approved because our goal is to help the patients take the medicine easily and effectively,” said Tracy Timura, regional director of IONA Cannabis Clinic of the Florida Keys.
IONA just had its grand opening in Islamorada and has more than 100 patients.
“The response is overwhelming and positive in every aspect. We’re a physician practice, not a dispensary,” she said. “The medicine right now is very effective.”
Delivery methods include topical creams, patches, oil for vaping and tinctures of CBD oil and THC, she said.
Soon, IONA will open a Key West location.
Between Key Largo and Key West, there are 10 certified physicians who can prescribe medical marijuana but there is not a single dispensary in Monroe County. Yet.
Monroe County’s biggest private-sector employers who drug test.
- Ocean Reef – Tests pre-employment, reasonable suspicion
- Hawks Cay – Pre-employment, post-accident, reasonable suspicion
- Home Depot – Mouth swab pre-employment, post-accident
- Baptist Health South Florida – Pre-employment, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, routine testing
- Lower Keys Medical Center – Pre-employment, random drug screenings