May 14, 2013 8:04 PM
RIO RICO - The Rio Rico Fire Department says they approved a measure requiring first responders to notify the department if they obtain a medical marijuana card. The policy also prevents first responders from driving district vehicles, and/or responding to emergencies while using the drug.
Chief Les Caid said none of his fire fighters, or EMTs currently have a card. He said the policy was put into place to ensure the department's stance was clear. He said first responders must be able to perform daily and without the influence of any drugs, "medical marijuana, prescription drugs, pain killers, whatever it may be. So we've got to control that. And again, the trust between the public safety agencies and the public is so important we don't want to break that trust."
But Kimberly Haslett who is a medical marijuana user and runs the Southwest Arizona Patient Alliance said the requirement is absurd, "he's not a doctor, he's a fire chief. He doesn't have the right to tell a patient that your doctor recommended this to you and I'm telling you, you can't take it."
Caid said it's still unclear how long medical marijuana remains in a person's system and says first responders cannot afford to take any chances when dealing with the public, "we do not allow anyone that is impaired, doesn't matter if its legal or illegal drugs, they're going to be dealt with."
In the meantime, Haslett says the new policy is a lawsuit waiting to happen, "he has to follow state law, he may not like state law but he has to follow it and the law says that cannabis is a medicine.
According to Caid, if a first responder is also a medical marijuana user then it's likely that individual would no longer be working in the field and would be reassigned to an administrative position if that was possible.