Recreational marijuana use is legal in almost half of the states in the U.S. Attitudes toward this drug have changed, leading to less stigma. As it becomes more common, it begs the question: Can medical professionals use marijuana recreationally without getting in trouble?
Nurses in every state must follow strict rules about professional conduct, ethics, and drug use to maintain their nursing licenses. As laws about marijuana have changed, not all state nursing boards have kept up. Many still prohibit recreational marijuana use for nurses. It's important to know what your state board's policies are so you don't end up with a suspended or revoked nursing license.
Marijuana Use Rules Are Inconsistent Nationwide
Not all state licensing boards hold the same stance on the use of recreational marijuana and holding a nursing license. Although some states have legalized recreational marijuana, that state's nursing board may not have revised its rules to go along with it. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing changed its guidelines so that a cannabis allegation doesn't automatically lead to disciplinary action. States that use these national policies for their licensing boards will have similar rules.
Recreational Marijuana Use Is Acceptable for Some Nurses
As of June 1, 2023, 21 states in the U.S. and Washington, D.C. have made recreational marijuana legal. As a nurse, you can use marijuana without getting your license in trouble if:
- You're not impaired when treating patients
- You follow your employer's drug policies
- You don't work for the federal government
- You don't violate DUI or other criminal drug laws
- It's allowed by your state's governing board
The issue you'll most likely run into is that your employer prohibits marijuana use. States like California and Colorado, where smoking marijuana is legal, still allow employers to maintain and enforce a drug-free workplace if they so choose—especially for medical professionals dealing with patients. That means that although recreational marijuana use may be legal in your state, and you have a valid nurse's license, you could still be fired for failing an employer's drug test.
What to Do If You're Accused of Breaking the Rules About Marijuana
If you end up in trouble with your state nursing board over recreational marijuana use, you should work with the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. Depending on the state where you live and practice nursing, you could end up with:
- License revocation
- License suspension
- License restriction
- Mandatory drug treatment
- Formal reprimand
An attorney who's dealt with nursing boards before can advise on the best actions to take in your situation. They can help you with the investigation, negotiations with the board, hearings, and appeals. Since marijuana use is such a complex matter in the U.S. right now, you shouldn't try to handle an investigation with your state's nursing board on your own.
At the Lento Law Firm, we help nurses and medical professionals nationwide hold on to their licenses and protect the careers they've worked so hard to build. We won't let one small mistake ruin your professional life. Call today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.