Austin, Texas Emergency Services Stops Drug Screening for Cannabis

Austin-Travis County (Texas) Emergency Services updated their policy to accept candidates with prior cannabis use to reflect the changing landscape of legalization across the country.

Full story after the jump.

Austin-Travis County, Texas Emergency Services (ATCEMS) updated its hiring policies to not disqualify applicants for past cannabis use, according to a KXAN report. Prior to the change, applicants were disqualified for using “hemp, legalized forms of THC and legalized medicinal uses” within three years of applying.

The department said the policy was “antiquated” and was updated to reflect the changing landscape of legal cannabis across the country. City officials began working on the issue after a denied candidate revealed he was disqualified because he used cannabis in a state where it is legal for adult use. The change only removes the past cannabis use question and does not halt drug screens at the department, the report says.

“Given that THC is recreationally and medicinally legal in over half the states, we’re really reducing the number of people that can even apply to work for us. They still have to pass a drug screening, we still have randomized drug testing currently, and post-accident drug testing. So it hasn’t changed any of that.” — Selena Xie, president of the ATCEMS Association, via KXAN

She said the department has a history of hiring recruits from out of state, so the policy needed updating to stay competitive with other Texas EMS Departments, which may attract more in-state cadets.

Xie says between the outdated hiring practices and the COVID-19 pandemic, the department is facing a labor shortage, noting that only 13 cadets will begin training this December, despite a recruitment goal of 30.

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