Bill advances to let firefighters use medical cannabis off-duty

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican A bill to make it easier for New Mexico firefighters to use medical marijuana legally got off to a hot start Friday. House Bill 292 would narrow the definition of “safety-sensitive position” in the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, which governs the state’s medical cannabis […]

Bill advances to let firefighters use medical cannabis off-duty

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A bill to make it easier for New Mexico firefighters to use medical marijuana legally got off to a hot start Friday.

House Bill 292 would narrow the definition of “safety-sensitive position” in the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, which governs the state’s medical cannabis program.

As proposed, the definition would only include employees who are required to carry a firearm or operate a vehicle with a commercial driver’s license and “whose performance under the influence of drugs or alcohol would constitute an immediate or direct threat of injury or death to the person or another.” State law currently defines a “safety-sensitive position” ineligible for the medical cannabis program more broadly, barring firefighters from using medical cannabis without their employer’s permission.

Miguel Tittmann, who represents about 900 firefighters in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County as president of Local 244 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, told the House Health and Human Services Committee the proposal “is not a firefighter bill.”

“It will affect a lot more employees in the state than just firefighters, but … it’ll positively affect our population so much,” said Tittmann, who testified as an expert witness.

The committee advanced the bill 6-2 amid blunt, burning questions from Republican lawmakers.

Rep. Harlan Vincent, R-Glencoe, who retired as chief of the Ruidoso Fire Department in 2016, questioned how fire departments would be able to find a baseline for cannabis that firefighters would be able to use since people metabolize the drug differently.

“It’s hard for me to have this conversation because in my former career, I took safety very, very seriously,” he said. “If somebody called 911 and they were having a heart attack, I want my people dialed in, razor sharp, and to give that person in our community every possible chance that they have to survive.”

Tittmann said New Mexico doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”

“There are many departments out there, including Vancouver, Pittsburgh, New York City Fire Department, that have already done this,” he said.

“We both share in the importance of being razor sharp in a safety-sensitive position,” he added. “I don’t think this has anything to do with impairment on the job. Just like alcohol, we have to not drink a certain amount of alcohol so many hours prior to our shift starts. There will be the same level of meticulousness to address that safety issue.”

Tittmann said there are blood tests that recognize marijuana use within four hours. He also said agencies don’t have to change their substance use policies as a result of the proposed revision.

“This is going to be an ongoing conversation of how we can allow our membership that have been diagnosed with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], that have been prescribed medical marijuana for the ailments that they have, to be able to use it in a responsible way on their days off,” he said.

Tittmann emphasized the proposal is “specific to medical marijuana prescribed by a medical doctor” and doesn’t deal with recreational marijuana.

“In our population, that happens to be PTSD, quite often, because of the trauma saturation that our firefighters see over a 25-year career,” he said.

Tittman said firefighters also suffer from sleep deprivation and work a lot of overtime.

“We use alcohol to cope,” he said. “It’s historically part of the culture in the fire service and has almost been normalized. But we’ve also lost many firefighters to suicide, to DUI, and to lots of other things because of the overuse of alcohol.”

Committee Chairwoman Rep. Liz Thomson, an Albuquerque Democrat who is one of the sponsors of the bill, said the proposal was initiated by a friend of a friend who is a firefighter.

“We talked about PTSD and how it was pretty much inevitable doing those kinds of jobs,” she said. “It’s going to be tough on the psyche, and he asked if we could include cannabis for some firefighters.”

Thomson said she was struck when he told her firefighters are encouraged by their supervisors to drink alcohol to deal with the stress. In an interview, Thomson said “everybody demonizes cannabis,” but it’s “less dangerous” when compared to alcohol.

The firefighter who initiated the proposal “told me if you don’t have PTSD your first year, you will by the second,” Thomson said. “Someone else told me if you don’t have it by the first day, you will by the second, and I can truly see that, so we’re just trying to give them another option to deal with the traumas that they see every day without it being alcohol.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

The proposed strategic water supply had a rocky road this legislative session that ultimately resulted in it not making it through even one chamber.…
Bill to end detention of immigrants in New Mexico fails soon after new report on poor conditions

Bill to end detention of immigrants in New Mexico fails soon after new report on poor conditions

A bill to prohibit immigration detention in New Mexico failed a few weeks after an organization issued a report regarding the conditions for a…
Supporters of Paid Family and Medical Leave say it will return

Supporters of Paid Family and Medical Leave say it will return

House Speaker Javier Martinez said that the Paid Family and Medical Leave will return to next year’s legislative session. SB 3, sponsored by state…
Utility regulators approves PNM’s transportation electrification program

Utility regulators approves PNM’s transportation electrification program

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission unanimously approved a plan from the state’s largest utilities for increasing adoption of electric vehicles this week. The…
Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

The proposed strategic water supply had a rocky road this legislative session that ultimately resulted in it not making it through even one chamber.…
Hearing examiner recommends that PRC reject controversial LNG storage facility

Hearing examiner recommends that PRC reject controversial LNG storage facility

New Mexico Public Regulation Commission Hearing Examiner Anthony Medeiros recommended that the commissioners deny New Mexico Gas Company’s request to build, own and operate…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee discussed a potential constitutional amendment that seeks to limit the governor’s executive powers. The committee approved…
Supreme Court censures attorney over conduct in anti-COVID policy suits

Supreme Court censures attorney over conduct in anti-COVID policy suits

The New Mexico State Supreme Court censured a New Mexico attorney because of her “misconduct” in two unsuccessful cases pushing back on COVID-19 regulations…
Guv outlines some health priorities on state spending

Guv outlines some health priorities on state spending

During her state of the state address on Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told legislators that one of her legislative priorities is a request…
Referendum on Edgewood’s anti-abortion ordinance moves forward

Referendum on Edgewood’s anti-abortion ordinance moves forward

The town of Edgewood is moving forward with its ballot referendum on its anti-abortion ordinance at a cost of more than $35,000. The town…
2023 Top Stories #1: Anti-abortion efforts go local

2023 Top Stories #1: Anti-abortion efforts go local

Note: Every year, we count down the top ten stories of the year, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral…
NM Supreme Court to decide if local anti-abortion ordinances are legal

NM Supreme Court to decide if local anti-abortion ordinances are legal

The New Mexico Supreme Court will decide whether anti-abortion ordinances passed by local governments in eastern New Mexico over the last 13 months can…
AGs want FDA guidance on heavy metals for the baby food industry

AGs want FDA guidance on heavy metals for the baby food industry

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez and a coalition of 19 other attorneys general called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue…
Supporters of Paid Family and Medical Leave say it will return

Supporters of Paid Family and Medical Leave say it will return

House Speaker Javier Martinez said that the Paid Family and Medical Leave will return to next year’s legislative session. SB 3, sponsored by state…
Paid Family Medical Leave bill dies in the final days of the session for a second year in a row

Paid Family Medical Leave bill dies in the final days of the session for a second year in a row

A bill that would have provided paid leave for several weeks died on the House floor when 11 Democrats sided with Republicans to vote…

Bill to require disclosure of use of AI in campaign materials goes to governor

The Senate approved a bill aiming to require the disclosure of the use of artificial intelligence or other changes made by computers to campaign…
House amends, passes bill banning firearms near polling places

House amends, passes bill banning firearms near polling places

The House narrowly approved a bill that would ban firearms near polling places. The House voted 35-34 to pass the bill following an extensive…
Manny Gonzales doesn’t qualify for Senate GOP primary ballot

Manny Gonzales doesn’t qualify for Senate GOP primary ballot

Nella Domenici is the lone Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, after Manny Gonzales III failed to qualify for the ballot. Gonzales did not file…
Utility regulators approves PNM’s transportation electrification program

Utility regulators approves PNM’s transportation electrification program

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission unanimously approved a plan from the state’s largest utilities for increasing adoption of electric vehicles this week. The…
Stansbury talks infrastructure issues at roundtable

Stansbury talks infrastructure issues at roundtable

Democratic U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury discussed infrastructure issues and grants that could help fix those issues during a roundtable discussion at Rio Rancho City…
Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

Questions remain about governor’s strategic water supply proposal

The proposed strategic water supply had a rocky road this legislative session that ultimately resulted in it not making it through even one chamber.…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report