Pittsburgh police officer in legal limbo over medical marijuana use
A Pittsburgh police officer is in a legal Catch-22 over medical marijuana.
Mayor Bill Peduto confirmed on Thursday that the city placed the officer, whom officials have declined to name, on paid administrative leave six to eight months ago after he tested positive for marijuana. The officer had a state-issued medical marijuana card and was using marijuana for medicinal purposes, Peduto said.
“It’s unique territory,” the mayor said Thursday afternoon. “We have several city employees who are prescribed marijuana for medicinal purposes. It is different, though, with police. There is a very strict law that prohibits the use of marijuana for any police officer in the state of Pennsylvania.”
Pittsburgh police officers, according to bureau policy, are not allowed to use marijuana under any circumstances. In addition, any police officer found using medical marijuana faces decertification by the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission, according to policy approved in March.
The policy conflicts with the state’s Medical Marijuana Act, signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2016, according to Peduto. It also conflicts with Wolf’s recent push to legalize pot for recreational use, which is under consideration by the state House.
The federal government classifies marijuana as a controlled substance and its use is illegal under federal law.
Peduto supports legalization efforts and said the police officer is in a legal limbo because of the state regulation.
“We’re still working through the legal definition of it, but it appears that the state law will be the law that we have to follow,” he said. “It has not been determined yet, but it appears that way.”
Robert Swartzwelder, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge 1, declined to discuss the officer’s case, but he was critical of the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission.
“You have an administrative agency that is in direct conflict with the state law,” he said. “You have an administrative agency telling the governor what to do instead of the governor telling the agency what to do. The governor needs to come in and tell the commission, ‘Hey, you’re out of line.’ ”
Calls placed to the governor’s office and the MPOETC were not immediately returned.
Peduto said marijuana should be treated like alcohol: Employees could use it on their own time, but would face termination if caught using it on the job.
“I would allow the state to do its due diligence on it, but if we make marijuana into the same classification as alcohol it should be basically looked at under that same lens,” he said. “I would say again that it would … depend on if you were on duty or off duty, but that would depend on the state legalizing it first.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .