Pilot Fired After Unwittingly Eating Cannabis Candy

airplane airline

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — An airline pilot was fired after learning that he had failed a company drug test, according to 9NEWS.

Twenty-nine-year-old Nate Cupps was a newly-hired pilot that was laid-off by Great Lakes Airlines due to cutbacks within the company but was asked to come back to the airline once things improved.

Cupps said that he received a call from the airline advising him that he could return to work after taking a pre-employment drug test. Cupps was delighted and took the test, expecting to return to work without incident until he received another call from the airline, who had bad news. Cupps failed his drug test, testing positive for THC.

The pilot said that when the airline told him that they had found THC in his urine, he was shocked. "For a second, I couldn’t breathe. And I said, ‘Ma’am with all due respect, I’ve never done any illegal substance in my life, there’s a mistake here,'" said Cupps.

But it wasn't a mistake. The lab conducted a second request and the results were the same: positive for marijuana. The Federal Aviation Administration notified Great Lakes Airlines and Cupps lost his lifelong dream of being a pilot, losing both his job at the airline and worse, his medical certification and ability to fly. "I felt completely defeated," said Cupps.

Joy and Pain

Cupps was confused as to how he could have failed the drug test. He remembered that he was scheduled to take the test on a Monday and went to some casinos the weekend before with a buddy. He said that he didn't drink that weekend and only remembered having a piece of his friend's candy.

"It looked good, so I had one," said Cupps of the sugar-coated delights. "It just tasted like a regular piece of candy. Didn’t smell like it was a THC or [a] marijuana edible."

The pilot said that he didn't feel anything after consuming the edible candy and went to bed shortly thereafter. After trying to figure out how he had failed the drug test, it finally dawned on him that he may have eaten candy infused with THC. He called his friend who confirmed to him that the sugar-coated candy was indeed marijuana-infused edible candy.

Marijuana can remain in the system for several weeks and edibles are generally more potent than smokeable marijuana. The seemingly harmless piece of candy caused Cupps to fail his drug test and lose his pilot's license.

Dr. Robert Sancetta helps pilots trying to get their medical certifications back. The doctor is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and did not believe Cupps at first but soon took on his case after getting to know Cupps and believing him to be an honest person.

The FAA agreed with the doctor's report that the incident was accidental. Cupps got his medical certification back and was able to fly again. "Oh, I just cried man. Just kind of sobbed. In joy and in pain. This eight-month fight – it was just grueling," he said.

Cupps said that he had never had an illegal substance prior to the incident and doesn't want other pilots to make the same mistake that he did. Marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado, but it is still illegal on the federal level and airlines operate under federal law.

Cupps had to agree to be monitored and tested on regular basis for a one-year period and is using the opportunity to warn other pilots to be careful about what they consume. Now that marijuana is legal in so many states, Cupps doesn't want people to accidentally consume marijuana the way he did.