Florida School District Fires Marine Veteran for Using Medical Cannabis off the Clock
The board voted unanimously to terminate the high school dean who was using legal, doctor-prescribed cannabis medicine to tread PTSD he incurred from combat.
Published on November 6, 2020

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A Florida school district recently voted 5-0 to terminate the employment of a respected high school dean who tested positive for medical marijuana. But, there’s a twist: The cannabis was prescribed to the dean by a doctor to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he incurred as a Marine in combat during the Gulf War. 

Regardless, the Marion County School Board unanimously voted to fire Mike Hickman for this “violation.” Hickman has served as a dean at Belleview High School since 2010.

After issuing their edict, board members said they came to the decision because, even though medical marijuana is legal in Florida, it still remains a crime under federal law.

The board also claimed that Hickman broke a serious rule by not informing his supervisor he was using medical marijuana. But, of course, he didn’t — he likely knew he would get fired for it! Why do you think every stoner typically hides the fact that they consume cannabis? 

The district offered to reduce Hickman’s penalty to a suspension if he agreed to abstain from using medical marijuana in the future. Hickman did not agree to that deal, however.

In fact, Hickman pointed out the irony in their decision. Prior to being prescribed cannabis, he was taking a powerful but dangerous opioid painkiller, which is technically legal but extremely lethal and addictive.

In the weakest imaginable defense for Hickman’s firing, Mark Levitt, an attorney for Superintendent Diane Gullet, said to the press: “He was given the opportunity to stop using it.” Ok — thanks for your input, Nancy Reagan. 

Chris Altobello, an executive director with the Marion County Teachers Union, said Hickman was properly utilizing a doctor-prescribed treatment for a chronic medical condition and not, as the board’s decision might imply, recklessly getting high on the job.

“He was no more impaired than someone who took an aspirin for a headache,” Altobello said. “They implied that this is tantamount to smoking pot in the boys’ bathroom!”

Hickman’s medical marijuana use came to light after he was injured breaking up a student fight last year on the Belleview High School campus. A worker’s compensation doctor detected cannabis in Hickman’s urine and reported his findings to the school district.

If Hickman had simply not gotten involved in protecting students from violence, he’d still have his job. If he decided to stay on opioids — which, let's be clear, is not a sustainable plan — he's still be employed by the Marion County School District. 

“Imagine if this employee just sat back and let the two students continue to fight without regard for their safety,” Altobello said. “We wouldn’t be here right now.”

This is why we need federal legalization NOW.

Mike McPadden
Mike McPadden is the author of "Heavy Metal Movies" and the upcoming "Last American Virgins." He writes about movies, music, and crime in Chicago. Twitter @mcbeardo
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