In a move which could potentially be a trend in Texas, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services announced last week it would update hiring requirements by removing a disqualification for job candidates who used cannabis products.

Previously, the department disqualified candidates who used any form of cannabis to include hemp, THC and legalized medicinal uses within the past three years. The department has now updated its standards to represent changes in legalized cannabis use. Starting in 2022, applicants will no longer be disqualified for cannabis use within the past three years.

“Given that THC is recreationally and medicinally legal in over half the states, we’re really reducing the number of people that can even apply to work for us,” said Selena Xie, president of the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Association. “They still have to pass a drug screening. We still have randomized drug testing and post-accident drug testing. So, it hasn’t changed any of that.”

The change was evidently inspired by a recent applicant who said he’d been removed as a candidate after disclosing he’d previously used THC while living in a state where it was legal. According to Xie, the department and city leaders worked together to update the policy.

“The question is pretty antiquated at this point,” said Xie. “It was really written when marijuana was, for the most part, illegal in most of the states across this country. So, as that’s changed, it’s time to reevaluate some of those practices. And I’m really glad that the department did.”

According to Xie, the policy change was overdue because the department regularly recruited cadets from outside the state. Given the reliance of the state’s EMS program on out-of-state candidates, application standards needed to be adjusted.

For this December’s cadet class, Xie said the department had planned for 30 cadets, but only 13 cadets would be training.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially impacted the number of healthcare workers applying to and leaving the profession,” said Xie. “Recruitment is an uphill battle due to a combination of COVID-induced healthcare fatigue and these outdated disqualifiers.”

Xie said her hope is the decision will expand the candidate pool for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services and attract high-quality workers who might otherwise have been disqualified.