Tribal Government & News

Tribe to end testing for marijuana in pre-employment process

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde will no longer screen for marijuana use during its pre-employment processes at Spirit Mountain Casino and the Tribal government, according to a staff directive included in the Nov. 30 Tribal Council meeting packet.

The directive, approved by six Tribal Council members, instructed General Manager David Fullerton to remove THC – tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – from the drug screen panel that all potential new employees are screened for before being hired.

The decision is a slight softening of the Tribe’s position on recreational marijuana use that was spurred by Spirit Mountain Casino’s recent difficulties in recruiting new employees.

“Where it started is with SMGI (Spirit Mountain Gaming Inc.),” Fullerton said. “They implemented the policy change first to address recruitment in some positions. Obviously, the legalization in the state has probably broadened the use of marijuana and they were struggling in getting applicants for certain positions. So our response was for consistency. If we’re not going to have it on pre-screening at the casino, do we need it on pre-employment testing at the Tribe?”

In July 2015, the Tribe announced that it would continue to ban the use or cultivation of marijuana at Tribal enterprises and on Tribal land, and also said that employee drug testing policies for Spirit Mountain Casino and the Tribal government would provide for random drug testing for safety sensitive positions plus pre-employment, post-accident and reasonable suspicion for all employees.

“In essence, it doesn’t change a lot for us,” Fullerton said. “Even if you don’t have to test for THC on pre-screening, once you’re hired we still maintain a drug-free work environment and if you’re in a safety sensitive position or have post-accident testing, if you test positive for THC you will fall into the same alignment with last chance agreements and possible termination. It doesn’t change anything after you are hired.”

Oregon voters approved the use of recreational marijuana in November 2014 and residents were allowed to start legally using, growing and possessing the drug in July 2015.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, but the Obama administration has adopted a hand’s-off approach as long as its use is strictly regulated to keep it out of the hands of youths. In addition to Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Washington and California have legalized recreational use of the drug, and many other states allow medical use of marijuana or have decriminalized it.

The new Tribal policy states that the Tribe will continue to test for the presence of marijuana when it conducts reasonable suspicion testing, post-accident testing and random drug testing of safety sensitive positions.

The Tribal government has 244 employees designated as being in safety sensitive positions, according to the Human Resources Department.

Fullerton said the new policy should be in place by the end of the year.

The sticky wicket for marijuana users is that THC can be detected in urine for up to four days after smoking marijuana in occasional users and up to 10 days in frequent users, according to the National Drug Court Institute, meaning an employee after being hired can test positive for THC if they are randomly tested and then be subject to disciplinary actions. Marijuana is unlike alcohol, which is usually flushed out of the body within 24 hours.

“For all of our employees, the expectation is not to be using marijuana,” Fullerton said. “The only change is you can test positive for THC at hiring and it won’t impede you from getting a job here, but once you’re hired you fall under the same provisions of a drug-free work environment. … Everyone who is hired is expected not to have THC in their system.”

Also included in the Nov. 30 Tribal Council packet were authorizations to proceed that transferred $3,180 from general contingency to the Election Board budget to cover stipends for the remainder of 2016, approved submission of a $322,500 Spirit Mountain Community Fund grant application for the Grand Ronde Police Department and OK’d other parties to file friend of the court briefs supporting the Committee Against Reservation Shopping’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of the Department of the Interior’s decision to allow a Cowlitz Tribal Reservation 15 miles north of Vancouver.

The packet also included a failed authorization to proceed that would have moved $20,000 from general contingency to Public Works to fully fund building a fire line to the new community building being constructed at the northwest corner of Grand Ronde Road and Highway 22.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal is requiring fire flows of at least 1,750 gallons per minute to the building, but the closest fire hydrant 800 feet away tests at only 1,250 gallons per minute.

“It was determined that the best option would be to install a new water line with larger capacity than the current line in Grand Ronde Road and a hydrant within the required distance of the building as mandated by the Fire Marshal,” the authorization stated.

The budgeted estimate was $45,000, which would have required $20,000 from contingency since funding sources for the remaining $25,000 were identified.

The authorization to proceed received only four yes votes, which was not a majority of Tribal Council.

“If we don’t find a solution for a fire line, we won’t get a certificate of occupancy from the Fire Marshal,” Fullerton said.

He added that a new fire line also would benefit nearby properties that the Tribe owns.

Another failed authorization to proceed did not waive the Tribe’s Committee/SEB Travel Policy to allow three members of the Education Committee to attend a government-to-government Tribal Cluster meeting. The current policy restricts travel to two committee members attending the same event.

During the actual meeting, Tribal Council had a very light agenda, only approving the agenda for the Dec. 4 General Council meeting held in the Tribal Community Center.

Cultural Resources Department employees Bobby and Jordan Mercier performed the cultural drumming and singing to open the meeting.

The meeting, in its entirety, can be viewed on the Tribal website at by clicking on the News tab and then Video.