Suit: City suspended firefighter prescribed medical cannabis

December 13, 2021 GMT

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A Utah firefighter who uses medical marijuana for chronic back pain has sued the city of Ogden, saying he was unlawfully suspended from duty for refusing to surrender his prescription card.

Levi Coleman said in a November lawsuit the fire department and city discriminated against him in violation of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, the Standard-Examiner reported.

Coleman has been a firefighter and EMT with Ogden since 2011. He reported his use of the drug in August, under a new policy requiring employees to report prescriptions or over-the-counter medications that warn of possible impairment.

He underwent a “fit for duty” evaluation, which he said did not include a drug test or a physical fitness test. The report nevertheless found the use of medical cannabis created “potential impairment” that could interfere with his performance, the suit states. He was then suspended without pay, tantamount to a firing.

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Fire and city officials declined Friday to comment directly on Coleman’s allegations. Mark Johnson, the city’s chief administrative officer, said officials have general concerns about people who may be driving fire trucks or providing lifesaving care.

“We have some great concerns policy-wise with public safety individuals taking any form of controlled substances,” Johnson said. “So I think it’s a lot muddier than it’s being made out to be.”

Coleman said in the suit that other controlled substance prescriptions have not resulted in suspensions. The Standard-Examiner could not immediately reach his attorney.

In the first report on the case, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that state law prohibits an entity from taking action against an employee, unless the person is impaired on the job.

“This firefighter is following state law. The employer is not,” said Jack Tidrow, president of the Professional Firefighters of Utah told the Tribune. “We just want to correct this as quick as we can.”