In a landmark settlement, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has agreed to reinstate special agent Anthony Armour, who was fired in 2019 after testing positive for THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. Armour attributed the positive result to the use of CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid derived from hemp, which he was taking as an alternative to opioids for chronic pain. The settlement not only marks a significant development for Armour but also sheds light on the complex intersection of federal employment policies, cannabis regulations, and the evolving understanding of cannabinoids.
Armour, a 16-year veteran of the DEA, was terminated in 2019 after a random drug screening revealed the presence of THC in his system. Despite Armour’s claim that the THC stemmed from his use of CBD, the DEA cited “reckless” conduct, arguing that he had consumed a federally illegal substance. Notably, at the time of Armour’s termination, there was no specific DEA policy regarding the use of CBD by its workforce.
Legal Landscape Around CBD
The legal landscape surrounding CBD has evolved significantly in recent years. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp and its derivatives, including CBD. However, federal agencies, including the DEA, have been slow to adapt their policies to reflect these changes. Armour’s case brought attention to the lack of clarity in DEA policies regarding the use of CBD by its employees.
As part of the settlement, the DEA has agreed to reinstate Armour, provide back pay for the period of his termination, and restore eligibility for his pension. Additionally, the agency will cover Armour’s legal expenses. The settlement underscores the significance of addressing the impact of changing cannabis regulations on federal employment practices.
Armour’s attorney, Matt Zorn, emphasized that the DEA did not have a specific CBD policy for its workforce at the time of his client’s termination. This void in policy raised questions about the agency’s grounds for termination and highlighted the need for clear guidelines regarding the use of CBD by federal employees.
The Impact on Federal Employees
The settlement is likely to have broader implications for federal employees who use CBD, especially in agencies with outdated or unclear policies. The lack of specific guidelines can lead to situations where employees, like Armour, face adverse employment actions without clear justification. The settlement may prompt federal agencies to revisit and update their policies in line with evolving cannabis regulations.
The settlement coincides with the DEA’s ongoing review of marijuana scheduling prompted by a directive from President Joe Biden in 2022. While the top federal health agency has recommended moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the DEA maintains that it has the “final authority” in the matter. The outcome of Armour’s case and its implications for DEA policies may intersect with the broader debate surrounding marijuana scheduling.
Throughout the legal proceedings, Armour expressed his support for cannabis legalization, describing it as a “common-sense” policy backed by scientific evidence. His case highlights the disconnection between evolving public opinion on cannabis and federal policies that continue to treat the plant as a Schedule I controlled substance.
The DEA’s settlement with Anthony Armour serves as a crucial turning point in the intersection of federal employment policies and evolving cannabis regulations. It highlights the need for federal agencies to adapt their policies to reflect changes in the legal status of cannabinoids like CBD. As the DEA reviews marijuana scheduling, the outcome of Armour’s case may influence broader discussions surrounding cannabis policies within federal agencies. The settlement also underscores the ongoing tension between federal regulations and the growing acceptance of cannabis in various forms across the United States.
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