Commissioners Discuss Budget, Job Duties And Marijuana
September 26, 2019
Money and drugs were the top topics at the county commissioners meeting. More specifically, budgets and marijuana.
The Pottawatomie County Board of County Commissioners had a few more details to work on before finalizing the budget on Monday, Sep. 23.
Dist. 1 Commissioner Melissa Dennis said last year the board had $5.775 million dollars to work with. This year there is only $5.676 million.
“We took everybody back to what they got last year,” said Dennis. There is still left a shortfall, and the cost of mandatory audits was increased. Dennis said this was set by the state so it is a cost they have to cover.
After some discussion the board agreed to cut approximately $100,000 normally given to the Public Safety Center. “The jail and the fair both get tax money,” said Dennis. “We’ve always given the fair board $5,000, but if we’re cutting, we’re cutting.” The final cut was $1,500 to the County Fair Board. This left them $191 wiggle room.
The Sheriff’s Office did not receive a cut; however, the additional $50,000 requested to fund a lieutenant position was taken off the table. The recently approved $20,000 to supplement the Environmental Crimes Deputy position was left in the budget.
The meeting moved on to marijuana, or again more specifically, medical marijuana in relation to job duties. Pottawatomie County Safety Director Tommy Arnold presented information to the board on the Unity Bill as well as research findings from the Association of County Commissioners (ACCO).
The Unity Bill (HB2612) was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt on March 14. It is called the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection act. However, employers are allowed to designate certain positions as “safety sensitive.”
According to the new law, employees who work in positions classified as safety sensitive can be disciplined if they test positive for marijuana or its metabolites even if they have a valid Oklahoma medical marijuana license. Employers may also refuse to hire applicants for safety sensitive jobs who test positive for marijuana as part of a preemployment drug test, even if those applicants have a valid medical marijuana patient license.
However, “No employer may refuse to hire, discipline, discharge, or otherwise penalize an applicant or employee solely based on a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites, unless … the position is involving safety sensitive job duties.”
Employees who were working in safety sensitive positions prior to the law being signed “Must have notice: they are subject to this exemption and they are subject to disciplinary action in the event of a positive test for marijuana or its metabolites even in they possess a medical marijuana card.”
Employees in non-safety sensitive jobs who test positive for a drug test will be asked if they have a valid medical marijuana license issued by the State of Oklahoma and to present it. However, they will not be disciplined solely for failing the drug test. They will be disciplined if under the influence, possess or use marijuana while at work. If a person in a safety sensitive job tests positive for marijuana, you will be disciplined regardless of your status of a medical marijuana license.
Arnold fielded questions on the drug testing issue. “The rules are different,” he said. “You have to separate the two (THC and other drugs). If they test positive for THC you have to ask if they have a medical marijuana card. Is it clear as mud?
“The rules are totally different for safety sensitive positions,” said Arnold. “On a safety sensitive job, if they test positive for THC and they are an applicant, you don’t even have to ask if they have a card. They’re automatically disqualified.
“Here’s where the problem is,” said Arnold. “There is no .08. If I’m .09 I’m legally drunk with alcohol. There is no measurement like that for medical marijuana. So, if I come in today and get drug tested and I’m positive, you as my employer don’t know if I used it last night or two weeks ago.”
“We’re in unchartered water,” said Dist. 2 Commissioner Randy Thomas.
“You said they’re in possession if they’ve got it at work,” said County Clerk Raeshcel Flewallen. “But they can take it if they have a card and it’s okay.”
“But they can’t take it at work,” said Arnold.
“But they take it right before they get there,” said Flewallen.
“That’s correct,” said Arnold. “But if I smoke it just before I get here, then when I come in the door, I’m going to be under the influence at work which means I can be disciplined or terminated. Now if I smoked it last night, it will depend on how much I smoked whether or not I’m under the influence when I come to work today. And you’re right, Randy. It is unchartered water.”
Arnold also discussed work place safety training. He said he will begin hosting two safety zone training sessions a year. The training will include classroom training and outside work zone scenario training.
The safety director (Arnold) will also begin regular, unscheduled site visits to random job sites for compliance checks.
In other business Arnold requested approval of the commissioners to apply for a 911 grant through the State of Oklahoma. Arnold said this is an 80/20 and they plan to apply for around $30,000 so they would have to pay the 20 percent matching which would be around $6,000. The money will be used to update and convert the 911 data to state standards and Next Generation 911.
The board will hold a special meeting Monday, Sep. 30, at 10 am at 14001 Acme Road.