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Poll call: 92% say providers should be allowed to use THC if legal in their state

A poll of nearly 600 EMS1 readers found that a stunning majority are in favor of providers being able to use medical marijuana if their state allows


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With most states legalizing some form of medical marijuana or THC-infused CBD products, it’s not unreasonable for first responders to ask, “What about us?”

Legally, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, “meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision,” according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Despite the drug’s federal status, marijuana use is rising among the general population due to its increased prevalence as states legalize it in one form or another. This begs the question: Should providers be allowed to use marijuana in states it has been legalized in?

A recent EMS1 poll found that 92% of respondents are in favor of allowing providers to use medical marijuana, with 79% adding the “but not while on duty” caveat. Only 8% of nearly 600 respondents said providers should abstain from using marijuana completely.


The issue brought out some strong reactions on the EMS1 Facebook page, with opinions running the gamut from advocating for THC to be regulated the same way alcohol is, to others vehemently against providers using while employed as a first responder.

What readers are saying

“I don’t care if my surgeon shoots heroin in their spare time, as long as they are sober for work.” — Christopher Surrey

“All employees should be able to [a]s long as they are off the clock and not on call. It’s a lot safer than alcohol, which is very common in EMS and many other professions. It’s also a lot safer and less side effects as some RX meds.” — Heather Marie

“We allow it. I don’t see the issue.” — Robby Berscheid

“Whenever its legal, just not within 4 hours of start of shift.” — Jason Gomez

Reply to Jason Gomez: “I’d honestly go more than 4 hours before your shift but either way I still support it.” — Jonathan Crawford

Reply to Jason Gomez: “All prescription narcotics and alcohol the federal regulations say within 12 hours of shift. So, as long as someone doesn’t use 12 hours prior to their shift, I’m good with it.” — Raymond Yerby

“I don’t partake, but I know some that do on their off time for medical reasons. If you can work without being impaired, I don’t have an issue. I do love the responses on here about how it’s still illegal federally … yes, because the federal government has our best interest at heart.” — Butch Smith

“EMS providers should be able to use recreational marijuana everywhere.” — Zack Yaw

“I wouldn’t say smoking on shift, that stuff stinks. The smell would never leave the ambulance or station. But I would agree in the use of cannabis oil during shift.” — Jordan Smith

“Look at the other prescription medications we are given and how they can affect us. I think it would be beneficial for lots of things if allowed.” — Sam Dlonra

“How about tightening standards instead?” — Stephen Young

“Yes. What someone does on [their] personal time is [their] business.” — Dave Tedeschi

“If it’s legalized federally, then I believe it should be okay. Obviously, a provider shouldn’t be caring for patients while impaired, regardless of the reason for the impairment. But, other cannabis-based treatments are out there for chronic pain and mental health. I myself was taking CBD to help with anxiety but had to stop because I got a positive drug screen. Thankfully, I was able to keep my job.” — Philip Akin

“No, because ‘legal’ or not it still compromises your cognitive abilities and our patients deserve better.” — Mike Grant



Listen next:

A legal view of the medical marijuana in EMS debate

In this episode of Inside EMS, our co-hosts welcome attorney David C. Holland to talk from a legal perspective about the use of medical marijuana by public safety members

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.