A high school dean in Florida was fired on Wednesday by the Marion County School Board for using medical cannabis, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. Mike Hickman, who is also a military veteran, uses medical cannabis for pain stemming from surgeries related to his combat wounds.
In November 2019, Hickman broke up a fight at the school and was injured in the process, the report says. He had to report to a worker’s compensation physician for treatment and tested positive for cannabis during the visit. The superintendent of schools subsequently fired him for failing the drug test and an administrative law judge upheld the termination; however, the judge said the Marion County School Board could choose to suspend him instead.
The board offered Hickman a 20-day suspension without pay rather than termination if he stopped using medical cannabis – which is a violation of the Marion County Public Schools’ drug-free workplace policies. Hickman declined the offer and was fired.
Hickman’s attorney, Mark Herdman, called the 5-0 ruling “another unfortunate decision handed down by the Marion County School Board to fire yet another good employee.”
Chris Altobello, an executive director for the local teachers’ union, the Marion Education Association, decried the decision, saying Hickman “was no more impaired than someone who took an aspirin for a headache” and that the board “implied that this is tantamount to smoking pot in the boys bathroom.”
“Imagine if this employee just sat back and let the two students continue to fight without regard for their safety, we wouldn’t be here right now. Or if we were, it would have been for not intervening.” – Altobello to the Star-Banner
School officials argued that cannabis use is a violation of federal law and if they continued to employ Hickman the school could lose federal funding. In the ruling, Judge Suzanne Van Wyk said Hickman didn’t notify his supervisor that he was using medical cannabis as the board policy requires. She noted that he would be allowed “to continue teaching under the influence of opioid pain medications, which he took for years prior to the availability of medical marijuana.”
The board did agree to clarify its policies on medical cannabis. It is illegal under Florida law for medical cannabis patients to report to work under the influence.
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