Spectrum Bay News 9 Political Reporter Mitch Perry is looking for deeper meaning in politics and government so our local stories have more of a connection in your daily life.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Dava Stein received her medical marijuana card to deal with her debilitating migraine headaches in 2018.

A year later, a teenage driver ran a red light and hit her car, compelling her employer to have her take a drug test, per company policy. That’s when she informed them that she was going to test positive because of her cannabis use.

“At first they told me everything was fine, and then they put me on suspension and they told me if I wanted to come back to work I’d have to rid of the (medical marijuana) card,” she told Spectrum Bay News 9 on Friday.

She ultimately was told to bring her medical marijuana card into her office, where a human resources official chopped it into pieces. She kept her job, but has had to endure the painful headaches ever since.  

“The pain is extremely strenuous on my back,” she says. “It’s caused inflammation in my back. It’s caused multiple muscle spasms, starting from the top of my spine all the way down to my toes.”

Under legislation sponsored by Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Tina Polsky, Dava wouldn’t have had to get rid of her medical marijuana card. The bill would prohibit employers from taking punitive action against employees who are qualified medical marijuana patients – though certain employees with sensitive security positions like bus drivers and law enforcement – would not qualify.

“When we enacted medical marijuana bill, there was no provisions for employee-employer relationships,” Polsky told Spectrum Bay News 9 last month. “And we found that employees were getting fired or not hired for particular positions, and employers were also seeking guidance on what they should do because as many employers are either random drug testing or they’re participating in a drug-free workplace.”

The laws regarding medical marijuana patients vary around the country. Of the 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana in the U.S., 19 don’t have legal protections for medicinal pot patients, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

More than 71 percent of Floridians voted to put medical cannabis in the state constitution in 2016.

Delray Beach Democratic state Senator Lori Berman says it’s crucial to give employees like Dava Stein legal protections.

“It’s a very proactive bill,” she says. “Because like Rep. Polsky said, there are going to be lawsuits if we don’t do something about it.”

Stein, the daughter of medical cannabis activist Gary Stein,  has since moved on to another job. She’s still unhappy about how she was treated at her previous employer and says others shouldn’t go through what she did.

“Marijuana is a plant. It’s not a drug,” she says. “It’s there to help people. It’s helped me eat. It’s helped me sleep. My mother has glaucoma. My sister has epilepsy that (medical cannabis) has helped her with her seizures. This is something to help people when they’re struggling with."

With the legislative session halfway through, the Polsky-Berman bill has yet to be heard in committee. A number of other marijuana related bills have also had a difficult time getting traction in the 2020 session.