High times: Anchorage city workers may use pot without penalty

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The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday will consider an ordinance that will exempt city employees from certain penalties for cannabis use.

“With the changing legal landscape surrounding marijuana in Alaska and the evolving understanding of individual liberty and privacy interests, it is time to reevaluate our drug testing policy. This proposal aims to remove marijuana testing for most municipal employees,” the explanation says on the proposed ordinance. The Assembly wants a “more empathetic and constructive approach that emphasizes healthcare and support over punitive measures.”

Instead of termination, employees who test positive for marijuana will be offered counseling and addiction treatment.

“Historically, our organization has adhered to a strict policy that mandated the termination of employees who tested positive for drugs during workplace screenings. While this approach aimed to maintain a drug-free workplace, it often overlooked the underlying issues contributing to substance use disorders and failed to offer any support or resources to affected individuals,” the proposal reads, as proposed by Assembly Chairman Chris Constant and Assemblyman George Martinez.

The full explanation of the ordinance is at this link. A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the Tuesday, Oct. 10 regular meeting of the Anchorage Assembly, which begins at 5 pm at the Loussac Library’s ground floor meeting room.

78 COMMENTS

  1. I have had recent past coworkers whom smoked pot during working hours. Their emotions change and not for the good while they are under the influence. As well as depending on their drug usage I am seeing the pot smokers behavior, thought life about people, work habits have declined and they are more dysfunctional even added paranoia as well as aggressive behavior. After my experience, If I had hiring power, I wouldn’t hire any job applicants who are current drug users.

  2. This is absurd. I don’t want the muni to employee people who are under the influence at work as I want to deal with unimpaired employees when I have to transact with them. Fire them and let them all go to work as baristas or signature solicitors. Stop making me pay for their self induced problems.

    If they want to smoke dope, fine. Just do it on their own time and their own dime.

    • Pete, the effects last a lot longer than the “high” – you don’t want any worker who has been consuming marijuana anytime in the last month. Gotta establish some cred making that statement: Yeah, I was a teenager once upon a time… who has been clean and sober for forty years.

  3. Marijuana has more carcinogens than cigarettes. And, the THC levels are many times more potent than pot from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Bottom line is that many of my patients are drug abusers, mostly marijuana, which is an addictive narcotic.
    The long-term psychomatic symptoms, as well as physical symptoms are well-known, and frankly, off the charts amongst abusers. Our society is full of elderly who are not aging out well due to past drug use.

    • Doctorate of humanities and Reverend Walter Soboloff sr of Juneau, Ak said at a group of young southeast native leaders “take care of the old person inside you.” If one does their responsibility taking care of the physical, emotional, mental health (their thought life), spiritual health more likely that young person will have lesser old age problems. As well as keeping toxic and negative interactions (criticism) with family members and others in one’s community (work and social) minimal. The young adult who followed Walter Soboloff sr’s wisdom and learning that young person be happier and healthier at 67 or 80.

    • I had noticed that too since 2013. There are too many older adults from boomers who look sick in their early 60’s while those I seen who were 51 were already experiencing health problems they should be getting at 73 not 50. Now in 2023 I seeing my millennial generation of 35-49 years experiencing health issues earlier than the generation before them GenX did.
      A little digging in conversation it be revealed during our twenties they drank and used pot and ciggies too much, stayed up too late watching tv or gaming, worked too hard not gentle with their bodies, were in and out of toxic bad relationships with family and ex’s, or patterned negative thinking. A compiled life of bad choices and bad environments.

      • Jen, if you read obituaries you will see that many people are dead at age 67 or 63, or even 60, from natural causes. Booze, marijuana, opioids, and fatty foods take a toll on the human body.

        • I have a neighbor, now sober, who was a rabid ‘partier’ and abuser of alcohol, cocaine and other drugs in the 1980s through the middle 2010s, and although we are only one year apart in calendar age, he is now aging, from all appearances, about 5 or 6 years for my every one. He is now paying the piper for his past poor lifestyle and choices.

          • It is a fact, Jefferson. The partiers and users will get old and wrinkly, usually in their early 60’s. Age creeps up on them so much quicker due to the effects of drugs and alcohol. They turn gray much quicker and their bodies start to lose tone and fluidity, no matter what they do to try and rectify their years of abuse. Go to a 40, 50, or 60 year high school reunion and see for yourself. The proof will be so ever apparent.

        • Obituaries never include or mention that people died of overdosing themselves.. People who write their family’s obits never want to include the causes of death for the loss of respect of their loved one. There will always be exceptions..

      • I worked at the Muni. You are not tested when hired, but you ARE tested if you have an accident; for drugs & alcohol. ( even a trace of alcohol & your fired) These are basically “insurance” driven policies that keep the insurance costs down. If you test positive for weed or pills that are not prescribed to you you’re done. The way most people were let go after testing was pharmaceuticals ….. taking pills that that are prescribed to your dad or your wife. Even police are not tested when hired I was amazed to find out.

        • When I’m injured and/or in pain, I’m toking weed to help deal w/that pain. The alternative is paying a doctor and being prescribed pain pills — except that the DEA has now cracked down so hard on the medical industry that you can’t get sufficient pain relief via doctors. This has just created a larger black market, and trust me, if you’re in enough pain, you’ll use that black market.

  4. I haven’t heard one single Anchoragite, public employee or private citizen clamor to creosote their minds using some fortified Marijuana product while on the clock. Not one. There is no demand for this dangerous change being voiced from the tax payers. Although Anchorage public education is minimal Anchoragites know better than this. This is coming from the WEF UN far-left influence on the one world order tip on the dais – from the assembly and was sung at the WH on the 4th of July: “C’mon, C’mon; let’s all git haa”. No thank you, signed the people of Anchorage.

  5. As long as it isn’t during work hours and doesn’t affect the work they do. These Right-Wing people will look for anything to complain about these days

    • Only one big problem. The lingering affects of pot, Marijuana and misc other drug laced products lasts much longer then just 2 days..The judgments they make upon returning to work are still affected by the weekend use.

  6. Saw this coming the day it was legalized. Probably inevitable nationwide.

    There isn’t a stigma concerning it anymore.

    • And yet, ironically, the radical leftists who think that marijuana is innocuous are rabidly demonizing, and trying to illegalize, tobacco in all its forms. But of course, logical consistency means nothing to the radical leftists, who are guided purely by emotion, dogma and herd conformity rather than by reason.

  7. “substance use disorders“ – drug addiction?

    “affected individuals“ – drug addicts?

    “vulnerable road users” – bikers and pedestrians/drunks/entitled persons?

    Word choice matters.

    Assembly persons are very crafty when it comes to using language to ignore or erase the knowledge that human persons bear responsibility for their actions. If they identify a victim in need of aid, they have designed another funnel for government money to pour into their pockets and their friends’ pockets.

    Sullivan Arena?
    Covid cash for small businesses?
    Real estate law changes?

    When a landscape is changing, sane people look for stable ground. What do we call persons who, when they see a “changing landscape,” look to their own advantage and profit?

  8. Does the Municipality’s work comp insurance and liability insurance carrier(s) know about this? How about OSHA?

    • Trying to contact Muni employees who are still working at home is very difficult these days. If you leave voicemail at their office phone umbers and they bother to return the call in order to discuss work-related topics, sometimes you can hear children crying or arguing in the background. They are not earning their salaries if they are babysitting during work hours. I say ALL MUNI workers must now return to their office to work if they want to get paid. That include you, Sharon!
      Now if New York George gets his way and Muni employees are able to sit around smoking weed while they say they are working at home, they won’t get any work done and we will still have to pay them.
      Fire George Martinez for this latest stupid idea!

    • In every state, it’s illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs. Generally, a person can be convicted of a drug DUI based on legal or prescription drug use. A CDL driver will lose their license for 1 year and have to retake the test to get it back. If they are on a federal installation, it’s a felony. If they are caught again, they lose it forever and it may get become a felony.
      My question is that when a plow operator runs over a child or a lawncare worker hits someone with a mower, what attorney do we use to sue the Muni and get the big bucks?

    • You know what other federal regulation ask about drug use? The ATF and firearm transaction form. I wonder how many ALaskans claim no drug use when the legally purchase a firearm? This is the same form that is the basis of the indictments against Hunter Biden.

  9. It’s legal for adults to buy and consume in the State of ALaska. Why discriminate against pot when tobacco and alcohol aren’t tested for. Geez Susanne Alaskan’s like to be able to make their own choices

      • This happens regardless if your work for Parks and Rec or not. Assuming the police are called to the scene.

        • No at the Muni if you twist your ankle, bump a mailbox w/ a riding mower or back up to close to a loading dock & hit it, that IS an accident & you are tested. Accidents that are tested for are not necessarily vehicle related & APD does not have to be involved in order for your foreman to take you for a drug test (& they HAVE to take you to be tested or they can lose their jobs)

  10. Good thing the city is self insured or any smart insurer would drol them like a hot potatoe.

  11. Hold on a second…..During the Marijuana legalization push the marijuana industry and other legalization proponents assured the public that marijuana was not addictive.

    So, why are we offering “employees who test positive for marijuana will be offered counseling and addiction treatment” instead of termination????

  12. The key phrase is “maintain a drug-free workplace”. The employee or contractor is responsible to be timely, reliable, sober and rested during the periods of performing work or duties. Once the individual is away from their employment there can not be conditions for how they spend their private personal time and activities.
    Consuming alcohol during personal time is not controversial despite the fact that alcohol is the #1 substance abused in Alaska. The destruction of individuals, families, and small business, criminal activity, spousal and child abuse due to alcohol abuse continues to be rampant.
    The abuse of prescription drug opiate based pain killers, methamphetamine, fentanyl and alcohol are the overwhelming causes of current “drug” and addiction issues, not to mention the public health scourge caused by the FDA emergency use authorized Covid “vaccines”.
    Cannabis consumption on personal time is no more an employer’s business than enjoying a beer or mixed drink on the weekend. Cannabinoids show up in urine and hair follicle drug tests for weeks after ingestion, although the data is irrelevant in maintaining a drug-free workplace when consumption occurs outside of the workplace.
    The medicinal benefits from the use of various cannabinoids for treating naturally a multitude of symptoms and ill health conditions instead of traditional prescription toxic chemical compounds is becoming popular. An individual should not have to choose between their employment or ability to exercise their natural right to privacy and enjoyment of their personal life.

    • Brian- This isn’t about what a user does during their off the clock time away from the workplace. This is about employees on the clock taking a break to smoke pot like a cigarette. You never worked around employees who smoked pot during breaks, have you? Cause sounds like you hadn’t. Unlike cigarettes that only risk for an employer is it causes cig smokers to take too many smoke breaks. pot smokers after they light up they are mentally and physically altered to be considered a risk as well as their work performance is not good nor any better, and they lack incentive and care for their work.

  13. Wait, What? The way the city operates, I was under the impression it was already OK to be high at work.

  14. Oh isn’t that just duck soup, Anchorage? So the people who remove snow, repair your buildings, work on your natural gas, plumbing, assess your property, can all do their jobs when they are high? With no worry of penalty. Hmmmmmm.

  15. why are the flags on the benchtop not Alaska state flags? Were they stoned and didn’t notice? or is this all part of being politically correct nonsense disrupting the whole country.

  16. As much as it pains me to say it, the Assembly is right on this. Here’s why:

    Legalized pot in AK has a long, sordid history. First legalized by the AK Supremes in 1975, decriminalized by the legislature in 1982. Recriminalized in 1990. Medical marijuana legalized in 1998. Recriminalization struck down in 2003. Legislature tried recriminalization again in 2006. Most recent ballot initiative decriminalized in 2014.

    With all the ebb and flow, it is not a surprise that businesses and governments refused to do anything since 2014. But it has been 8 years, and appears that pot is here to stay, so it is long past time to synch drug testing with what businesses and are really interested in (no inebriation while on the job).

    This is going to be difficult, as drug testing was good enough 40 years ago to detect THC 21 days after use. I expect it is better today. To the best of my knowledge, there is no commonly accepted standard for pot inebriation like there is with alcohol. Flyers adhere to the 12 hours bottle to throttle rule. Not familiar with a similar rule for pot. Perhaps there should be one.

    If we are living in a legalized state, somewhere along the line, businesses and governments need to synch up their drug testing rules to reflect that legalization. The fact that up until the actions of this detestable Assembly majority, nobody dared to even have the conversation, is at its foundation a dereliction of duty by the powers that be. And yes, once we figure this out at the state and local level, someone is going to have to bring the feds along, likely kicking and screaming. Cheers –

    • Arguing about this now is literally trying to get back virginity. Once gone, it’s gone. Now learn to make the best of the decision.

      I just hope the muni has its insurance paid in full. The cost of a lawsuit when a stoned employee damages people or property will be astronomical.

      • MA said: “I just hope the muni has its insurance paid in full. The cost of a lawsuit when a stoned employee damages people or property will be astronomical.”

        Modify your second sentence a bit to discuss an active shooter on Muni property. If / when that happens, someone will have to write a large caliber check to the families. Muni still doesn’t allow employees to carry concealed. Cheers –

    • Ago-That’s lowering one’s standards to accommodate poor choices and bad habits. 0r compromising because of one thinks they can’t expect any better. That’s going luke-warm.

    • My workplace doesn’t do drug testing. In the last nine months I have encountered six former employees whom by their behaviors, communications made me question why am I work here among questionable people who a friend of mine from Turkey when we talked about past neighbors of mine who were drug addicts, he told me his parents wouldn’t live around people if such nature. Made me think how compromising I learned to be as an Alaskan. Anyway I am glad my questionable and four of the pot smoking co workers, plus meth addict, plus alcoholic no longer are working with the company. Because I don’t deserve to be living around nor working alongside addicts who get high or buzzed at work like we are in a slum hotel. I wish my hotel owner did pay for drug testing as another hotel did of me in 2011.

      • Don’t disagree with any of this. But somewhere along the line we gotta have the public conversation and come to some sort of (however temporary) agreement. Given the track record of the Assembly majority over the last 6 years or so, I can almost guarantee they will screw it up. Cheers –

      • Testing throws some unexpected results from time to time. USAF story out of Barksdale from the early 1980s had a B-52 pilot turn up positive for heroin on a random drug test. Those jets had a nuke mission at the time, so there was a LOT of excitement. Turns out the kid had an appetite for poppy seed bagels. Tests had gotten good enough that the minute amount of opioid in poppy seeds was enough to throw a positive test. Don’t think he went to jail or was separated, but did endure some very unpleasant times for a bit. Cheers –

  17. But yet I must pass a drug test to remain gainfully employed . Have seen more than 1 good worker fired because they smoked a joint 2 weeks ago . Rules for thee but not for me

  18. Drug testing for marijuana means intruding on what tokers are doing OFF work hours. Being high at work is another issue. If there was a test for that, then it would make sense.

  19. We need to start drug testing the Assembly, State Legislature, Judges and Congress. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

  20. Anchorage — All American City 1956, 1965, 1985, 2002. Soon, you can even smoke dope and drive a grader. Is this a great city or what!? We are NAILING it!

  21. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions/sterotypes/ideological rigidity surrounding this issue so rather than reply to a bunch of people I’ll just make one big comment encompassing as much as possible:
    1. Like it or not, marijuana is legal in Alaska. While I don’t believe employers should be able to regulate any personal off-duty conduct (legal or otherwise), when an activity is legal that takes even more wind out of the sails of the employer’s argument. The only valid counterargument is if an off-duty activity substantially affects an employee’s job performance, which I address in points 2-4 below.
    2. THC (the active ingredient in marijuana responsible for impairment) is metabolized more quickly than most people think with a half-life of less than 12 hours (similar to Benadryl) although estimates do vary and it does seem to be longer for heavy users and may be longer when taken orally vs. inhaled. Thanks to U.S. Government restrictions, research is limited.
    3. Because of #2 above, urine drug tests don’t test for THC at all; they actually test for the (non-psychoactive) metabolites of THC. These metabolites are fat-soluble which means they will persist in the body for 7-10 days on average, or multiple weeks for heavy users. This fact, I think, is responsible for the mistaken belief by many that THC “stays in your system” for multiple days.
    4. Because urine tests don’t actually test for THC (see #3), they have NO bearing on a person’s present level of impairment. This contrasts with breath alcohol tests which, while imperfect, actually attempt to measure the level of alcohol in a person’s blood at the present moment which, to some degree, correlates with his level of impairment.
    People can form different opinions from the same set of facts, but we need to at least agree on what the facts are in order to have a productive discussion. Personally, I find it hard to believe that with the technology available today we can’t develop some kind of a test that actually measures a person’s present level of THC (and, therefore, impairment) similar to a breath test for alcohol. This would serve the public-safety interest of not having people do their jobs impaired while still respecting people’s rights to do what they want in their off time.

  22. “I just hope the muni has its insurance paid in full. The cost of a lawsuit when a stoned employee damages people or property will be astronomical.”

    Believe the MoA is (for the most part) self-insured, but in any case, costs will go up and who will be paying those additional costs? The taxpayers; not the user, not the dealer, FDS not the assembly, it will be the taxpayers, including those that have enough reasoning skills not to imperil their employment by partaking, either on the job or off the job.

    Another ploy designed to further benefit the non-productive at the cost to the productive.

  23. ““With the changing legal landscape surrounding marijuana in Alaska and the evolving understanding of individual liberty and privacy interests, it is time to reevaluate our drug testing policy.” There has been some interesting “evolving understanding of individual liberties” in major Democrat run cities regarding murder, looting, carjacking, and assaults on innocent bystanders…. Bad trends don’t need reevaluation; they need common sense controls.

  24. All I know is I know someone, very close to me (wink, wink), that has smoked weed (hipsters call it flower) for 36 of his 54 years. Recently had a full blood work up, AWESOME! Doc,”What ever you’re doing keep it up” No drinking, no cigs, no toxic women. Of course could fall over dead today but not because of the herb. Oh, worked successfully in three industrial fields(Oil/gas, electrical and chemical). Gen X is finally seeing what the Old BSU(bud smokers united) dream come true.

  25. Don’t you love it when (so called) conservatives clamor for more government regulation to take away individual liberties from consenting adults of legal age?

    Reading comprehension is important:

    1. This policy doesn’t say they can “take a pot break during work hours like a cigarette break”.
    2. It accommodates the portions of the MOA workforce that is regulated by federal (mostly DOT) laws.
    3. Just because you test positive for a substance doesn’t mean it affects you. THC and other cannabinoids can remain in your body (particularly in hair follicles) long after (as in weeks) after the psychoactive effects are long gone.
    4. The people of the state voted to “treat cannabis like alcohol” but, we still random for cannabis but not alcohol.

    Oh, and BTW, you don’t overdose on cannabis. You might sleep for a long time, but overdoses are near zero. The latest data I’ve seen (from 2015) is actually zero. Unlike alcohol, opioids, prescription drugs, etc.

    If you don’t want to use cannabis, don’t use it, but don’t infringe on other people’s individual liberties when it doesn’t affect you. It’s called freedom people, and if you want to be a constitutional conservative, you kinda gotta quit shoving your beliefs down everyone else’s throats.

    • Myself, I don’t care what anyone does at home. I only care when they take it out into the public. When it’s out in public it becomes an issue for all of us. Let people live as they wish, provided we don’t end up paying for it.

      I do agree with employers having the right to set conditions of sobriety on the job. The employer takes the risks, both in insurance and profitability. Don’t like it, don’t work there. I’ve had far too many people under me who showed up stoned, drunk, often both. Company rules didn’t forbid it. I couldn’t fire them or even send them home. So I hate to create safe make work things for them while the response ones had to carry their load.

      • Masked Avenger. You still could had terminated the lazy workers. As a supervisor you must.
        Else you will had burned out the harder working employees. You owed it that much respect to the others working harder.

    • I agree with M. A.’s reply.
      It does affect me when as a taxpayer-employer I have to pay the salary of city employees and receive services from city employees.
      I am also affected when you make it harder to get rid of drunk or high employees, especially if they decide they want to just sit and chill all day.
      I am also affected when city employees commit acts that cause harm, damage and taxpayers have to pay for it. What consideration is being given to the taxpayers who are always expected to just shut up and pay like an ATM under the just charge it to the taxpayers rule.
      Re: conservatives-you are projecting. If you are being honest, it’s Not the conservatives that are shoving their beliefs down everyone’s throat.

      • This is all a straw man argument… no where is the muni saying they can use cannabis on the job. What the article says is that they are ceasing random testing for pot (which is legal to consume in the state). I completely agree – if someone is using cannabis on the job, is at work stoned, they should be let go (just like alcohol, right — oh wait, we still tolerate the sh%t out of that).

        BTW – cannabinoids metabolize much faster than alcohol, so the “alcohol rule” is 8 hours between bottle and throttle, whereas that’s a good metric for pot too, usually the psychoactive effects have worn off after 2-4 hours, depending on the delivery method.

  26. Let’s just be like the other demo cities and make it all legal with drive through shops giving away free samples of fentanyl, coke, and any other drug people want to use. Make it a free for all no rules.

  27. Years ago, the Police and Firemen fought tooth and nail against ANY drug testing of their members.

    One would think that they would want their fellow workers drug free, especially the armed police, but evidently not.

    • As an airline pilot I am subjected to random drug and alcohol testing. While I certainly share the sentiment of my passengers that I don’t want someone at the controls who is drunk or stoned, the current DOT drug-testing regime completely throws the Constitution out the window. Not only am I subjected to a search (in this case, of my body) without a warrant or probable cause, but if the test comes back positive (lab mistakes DO happen) I am essentially guilty until proven innocent. And if God forbid I can’t produce a “sample”, that’s considered a refusal which is treated the same as if I tested positive.

      We seem to have forgotten some years ago that even laudable public interests, such as transportation safety, do not trump the Constitution. More pragmatically, most other (at least Western) countries don’t impose random drug testing on pilots and you don’t hear about their airplanes crashing left and right from stoned pilots at the controls.

      • Wholeheartedly agree with You. My beef, as a member of a union for 51 years that caved in to the illegal search, is that the Police and Firemen were allowed to escape the Government net during the same time my union acquiesced. Police against drug testing especially bothered me when the rest of us were forced to comply or lose our livelihood.

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