Sandoval County Administration Building

With the legalization of recreational cannabis use passing at the state level earlier this year, the Sandoval County manager presented an updated zero-tolerance drug policy to commissioners.

At the Sandoval County Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday, County Manager Wayne Johnson presented a policy that would test all new employees. The policy does not include random testing but does include incidental testing if there is probable cause.

Under the current policy, only positions deemed as high-risk have new employees drug-tested. These positions include anyone who operates heavy machinery.

Each drug test costs the county $50 for a regular employee and $90 for an employee with a commercial driver’s license, according to county spokesman Stephen Montoya.

The commission won’t vote on the final version of the updated drug policy till June 17, but needed to vote on the updated policy to notify unions, Johnson said.
Commissioners unanimously voted yes.

The zero-tolerance policy would terminate, or disqualify, someone from a position for a positive drug test, even if they had a medical cannabis card.
Commissioner Jay Block, District 2, was concerned over this.

“So, if it is a zero (tolerance) drug policy for Sandoval County, when a Sandoval County employee is going through some type of painful, stressful medical treatment where their medical provider provides them a medical marijuana card, we are going to terminate that employee?” Block asked the county manager.

“Presumably, they would not be here on the premises working during that time period. The problem would be is if that employee were on the job working while testing positive or presumably testing positive for cannabis at that point,” Johnson said. “That would be the case of any employee at this point or any drug.”

A problem with testing for cannabis is even if an employee is not impaired on the job, they could still test positive for the drug because it stays in the system for multiple days, he said.
“That does not sound right to me,” Block said.

Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald, District 5, said he understood the issues between federal and state laws but agrees with Block.

“Commissioner Block, I totally agree with you, as far as the employee or someone that might have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder),” Eichwald said. “We might look at veterans who have PTSD, we might look at police officers that have PTSD or other issues that somebody may have… It would be really bad if we had to terminate somebody because of those issues.”
There is no policy requiring a county employee to report having a medical cannabis card, Johnson said.

Since on the federal level, cannabis legalization of any kind has not happened, Johnson said the policy must abide by federal law.

“We do receive a lot of federal money here at Sandoval County, and we have a requirement to abide by federal law, and this is permissive under the law that was passed in New Mexico, and so we are formulating this policy sooner rather than later,” Johnson said.

Many federal grants require compliance with federal law, so the county is at risk of losing federal dollars without passing this policy, he said.
Recreational use of cannabis does not go into effect till July 1, 2022, he said.

The next county commission meeting May 20 will be live-streamed at sandovalcountynm.gov, under “Quick links” in a tab called “meeting videos.”

Assistant Editor at Rio Rancho Observer