OPM: Marijuana being legal complicates drug rules, testing

OPM director says rules state that marijuana is still not legal for gov’t employment

The CNMI government workforce still has a problem with the use of methamphetamine or “ice,” according to Office of Personnel Management director Frances Torres Salas Tuesday. Worse, it’s even challenging now because of the legalization of marijuana, she added.

This came up after Rep. Denita Yangetmai’s (D-Saipan) asked Salas what drugs the OPM is checking among government employees.

In response, Salas said they still have a problem with “ice” use, made slightly worse by the legalization of marijuana. “It’s a personal choice, actually. It’s a personal choice for these individuals,” Salas added during the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation’s Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations meeting in the Senate chamber.


Yangetmai, who is a member of SNILD JGO Committee, chairs the House of Representatives Committee on Cannabis.

Salas said OPM’s regulations call for the testing of five different drugs: amphetamines, methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, and phencyclidine. She said they mirror their regulations after the United States, so they test for those five drugs.

Thanking Yangetmai for bringing the issue up, Salas said it’s been a challenge because cannabis or marijuana is now legal in the CNMI. However, the she said, employees need to understand that marijuana use is not legal for government employment.

“And I’m sorry, but if they choose to do that, then they might consider working for the private sector,” she added.

Salas said their rules or regulations have not changed as far as marijuana is concerned and that they don’t plan to change it because it’s still illegal at the federal level.

She said the biggest drug testing that they administered in fiscal year 2021 totaled 853 for pre-employment.

Salas said the types of testing they do are drug testing, random, mandatory, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, and follow-up testing.

The director said there’s mandatory testing because of the mandatory drug testing law for law enforcers.

“We also do that post accident. Although it’s minimal, they still perform it because accidents do happen,” she said.

On reasonable suspicion, Salas said either someone saw them actually dealing drugs, or actually had drugs in their possession, and so forth.

On follow up testing, Salas said they have individuals who have tested positive, have gone through the counseling, and have relapsed.

“Therefore, we need to continue the testing every so often, depending on what their counselor or their substance professional recommends,” she said.

Sen. Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan) chairs the SNILD JGO Committee.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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