Can nurses smoke weed in California?

As the legalization of marijuana continues to spread across the United States, many people are curious about the laws and regulations regarding the use of cannabis. Nurses, in particular, may be wondering whether they can use marijuana while working in the healthcare field. In California, where both medical and recreational marijuana are legal, the answer to “can nurses smoke weed in California?” is not as simple as a yes or no.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that while marijuana may be legal in California, it is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. This means that even though state laws may permit its use, it is still illegal at the federal level. As such, any healthcare professional who uses marijuana, including nurses, must be aware of the potential risks and consequences associated with their decision.

In California, the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) has stated that nurses who use marijuana for medical purposes, in accordance with California law, will not be disciplined solely for their use of marijuana. However, the BRN also states that nurses must still comply with federal law, which may require them to refrain from marijuana use. Additionally, nurses who work for federal agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, are subject to federal drug-free workplace policies and may be subject to drug testing.

Nurse or Physician “Impairment” Due to Use of Marijuana & Cannabis

It’s also important to consider the potential impact that marijuana use may have on a nurse’s ability to perform their job duties safely and effectively. Nurses are responsible for the well-being of their patients, and any substance use that could impair their judgment, coordination, or decision-making abilities could pose a risk to patient safety. While there is still much to learn about the effects of marijuana use, particularly when it comes to how it may affect job performance, it’s important for nurses to consider the potential risks before using marijuana.

Using or being under the influence of marijuana while performing the duties of a registered nurse can put patients at the “risk of harm” as a nurse may be considered “impaired” in the course of performing their professional responsibilities. Impairment results when a health professional, such as a physician, nurse, or allied health professional, is unable to provide competent and safe patient care because they are impaired by alcohol, prescription or nonprescription drugs, or mind-altering substances, including marijuana.

If a nurse violates the Nursing Practice Act, the Bureau of Registered Nursing (BRN) may take disciplinary action against the nurse’s license. Grounds for discipline focus on practicing in an unsafe or unprofessional manner and behaviors that place patients at risk of harm. This includes recreational use of cannabis (marijuana). All it takes is one patient complaint to the BRN.

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Failing a Drug Test: Consequences for Nurses and Physicians

Nurses subject to random drug testing by health care facilities are also at greater risk of losing their nursing licenses in California. This includes testing for use of cannabis despite the fact that California legalized recreational use under Proposition 64. It is easy to fail a drug test for marijuana as cannabis doesn’t metabolize quickly and evidence of cannabis use can stay in a person’s system long after the psychoactive effects of the drug have worn off. There is no way to predict how long cannabis will stay detectable in your system. In many cases, nurses failing these drug tests simply showed up for work with drug residue in their system from recent recreational use.

Nurses who fail a drug test for marijuana are reported to the BRN. A failed drug test and BRN disciplinary action with regard to your nursing license can not only result in the suspension or revocation of your California nursing license but can also seriously impact your job prospects as a nurse afterwards. Under California law, all employers retain the right to require pre-employment drug tests and take illegal drug use into consideration in making employment decisions.

The Medical Board of California also considers use of cannabis as falling under its licensing regulations for physicians and doctors pertaining to “impairment” related to drugs and alcohol (intoxicating substances). Any action involving consumption of cannabis that could put a patient at risk in the conduct of their duties puts a physician’s medical license at risk just like a nurse’s (or nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, LPN, LVN etc.).

So while nurses can smoke weed in California under current law, having worked so hard for a California healthcare license, you should do everything possible to make sure you keep it. A disciplinary action by an investigating agency or regulatory board is a serious threat to your ability to practice nursing or medical care, short term and longer term.

The Law Offices of Lucy S. McAllister have successfully represented a wide range of California licensed healthcare professionals and we are experienced in handling all types of licensing accusations and licensing issues in addition to criminal charges. Let us help you protect and defend your California nursing or medical license so that you can continue to practice the profession which you love.

So while nurses in California may legally use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, it’s important to understand that federal law still prohibits its use. Additionally, nurses must consider the potential impact that marijuana use may have on their ability to safely and effectively perform their job duties. As with any substance use, it’s important for nurses to make informed decisions and prioritize patient safety above all else.

For additional information or to schedule a consultation about your particular situation, please contact our law offices today.