Published on July 12, 2023
A New Policy for Firefighters
In Bargersville, Indiana, the White River Township Fire Department has become the center of a heated conversation. The department recently changed its drug policy, allowing its firefighters to use CBD products, including delta-8. This decision has stirred up controversy within Indiana’s firefighting industry, despite CBD being legal in the state since March 2018.
The White River Township Fire Department operates like any other firehouse. Firefighters spend their time training, maintaining equipment, and responding to emergencies. However, when they go home, they can now unwind from their long shifts or treat side effects from their demanding job with CBD products.
Jeremy Pell, the chief of the White River Township Fire Department, explained the reasoning behind the policy change. “We know that firefighters have problems sleeping and there is an emotional and a physical stress on our body and CBD is something that can help them,” he said. The policy change includes using CBD and delta-8 products in any form, including oils, smoking it, or baking it.
Chief Pell recommends his staff use products that are third-party tested to ensure they are using quality products. While CBD does not have the psychoactive characteristics that traditional marijuana does, studies show it can be used medically to treat issues like some sleep disorders or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Concerns and Controversies
Despite the potential benefits, some fire departments are wary of allowing CBD in their drug policies. Concerns about testing and long-standing strict drug policies that don’t allow any CBD or THC products have been cited, referencing federal regulations.
Depending on the CBD product, it is possible to test positive during a traditional drug screening for THC, as CBD in Indiana can legally contain .3 percent of THC. Without further testing, the results would look the same as someone who had been using traditional marijuana. There are also concerns about potential impairment while at work.
A Successful Change
Despite the controversy, Chief Pell stands by the policy change. He worked with Forte Sports Medicine, a tactical athlete program in Carmel, to research before changing the policy. He received no pushback from the township’s legal team or the board that the fire protection district answers to.
“When men and women come up to me and say, ‘Chief, this is one of the best decisions you have ever made.’ Thanks, I must be doing something right,” said Pell. He emphasized that this policy does not change the department’s views on impairment while on the job, which remains a zero-tolerance policy. Firefighters are only allowed to use CBD products when they are not on shift.
In the year since the policy change, the department has had zero issues related to CBD use among the staff. Neither the local nor state firefighters union was able to comment on the topic or provide numbers with how many fire departments in the state allow CBD use within their drug policies.
The White River Township Fire Department’s decision to allow CBD use has sparked conversations and controversy. However, the department stands by its decision, citing the benefits for its firefighters and the lack of issues since the policy change. As the conversation continues, it will be interesting to see if other departments follow suit.
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