Fired in June after testing positive for marijuana metabolite, a Louisiana police officer will now get his job back, reports the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.
The officer told investigators he had been taking a CBD supplement as a sleep aid and had not used any form of illegal cannabis.
The decision to reinstate the officer was made by the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board, which heard testimony on the case. The board made its ruling in spite of a doctor’s testimony that a hemp product shouldn’t create a positive result on the type of test that was used.
"Because marijuana immediately begins to break down in the body, some drug labs choose to test for marijuana metabolite, which stays in the system longer and is specific to traditional marijuana, a doctor testified before the board,” wrote Ashley White for the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.
In Louisiana and federally, CBD (cannabidiol) may contain only trace amounts of delta-9 THC: 0.3% or less.
The board voted 3-1 to send the officer back to work, with at least one board member saying that testing had not kept up with new laws and attitudes toward cannabis.
“I find that the lack of progress in testing and the technology that is available in something as innocent as sleep drops, that the city did not act in good faith and just cause,” Civil Service Board member Christina Olivier told the Daily Advertiser.
“I find that the lack of progress in testing and the technology that is available in something as innocent as sleep drops, that the city did not act in good faith and just cause.”
— Civil Service Board member Christina Olivier
The board member who cast the dissenting vote held the position that the officer had violated the city's drug policy.
The city has a zero-tolerance drug policy, but the officer’s attorney, Allyson Prejean, argued that there is no policy for CBD — a legal substance — and the test could not determine whether the source of the THC was a CBD product or an illegal form of cannabis.
The officer had been in an on-duty car collision in December 2020, triggering department policy for a drug test, according to White. When the results came back positive, the officer asked for a second test. Again, the reading was positive for marijuana metabolite.
While under investigation, the officer said that his wife, a nurse, had suggested a CBD supplement to help him sleep. They chose a brand that had offered samples at the hospital where she worked. His wife also testified that some of her peers at the hospital used the supplements and had passed random drug tests.
“His wife, a co-worker and supervising sergeant all testified they had never known Anderson to take illicit drugs, use marijuana or appear to be under the influence of illicit drugs,” White wrote.
The doctor who testified before the Civil Service Board acknowledged that consistent CBD use could lead to a positive THC result, and that the test could not determine whether the marijuana metabolite was caused by using a CBD product or an illegal form of cannabis.
Ultimately, the review board believed the officer and supported him in using a legal sleep aid. Instead, a board member pointed to the apparent need for updated testing methods, or even an exception to the zero-tolerance policy to allow for low levels of THC.