Anti-marijuana discrimination is a real thing, especially in the workplace. It has become such an issue that politicians in Washington state have created a bill to address the issue. It is on its way to the governor’s office where it will be voted on for final approval.
This bill was previously approved by Senate last week in a 30-18 vote after some back and forth concerning the language. Read on to find out what it’s all about.
What is the Anti-Marijuana Discrimination Bill About?
The anti-marijuana discrimination bill was introduced by Democratic Senator Karen Keiser. It would prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants based on cannabis use. Weed is legal in the state of Washington.
WA Senate Democrats published a Twitter post about the bill on 4/20. “Happy 4/20 WA! You shouldn’t be penalized in a job application for enjoying a legal substance at home. #SB5123- passed yesterday on a bipartisan vote- will protect employees from hiring discrimination due to cannabis use outside the workplace. #WALeg #PuttingPeopleFirst,” the post read.
The anti-marijuana discrimination bill is limited to consumption by job applicants. Employers are still permitted to prohibit cannabis use in the workplace. They are also allowed to maintain a drug-free policy for employees once they are hired.
Also, applicants can still be rejected based on cannabis use if they are applying to aerospace and airline industry positions as well as jobs that are safety sensitive and require background checks and security clearance.
The History of the Anti-Marijuana Discrimination Bill
The anti-marijuana discrimination bill went through a lot of back and forth before it was approved by Senate. It was amended to include protection expectations for applicants applying to industries such as law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services, and correctional security.
An amendment was also proposed to transfer the statutory language so it would apply to a different part of the state code. The House accepted the change last month, but it was overruled by the Senate before approval.
A sponsor of the bill said that the Senate’s revision meant the bill “aligned the way it was intended.”
“The legislature finds that the legalization of recreational cannabis in Washington state in 2012 created a disconnect between prospective employee’s legal activities and employers’ hiring practices,” reads the bill content.
Reasoning for the Anti-Marijuana Discrimination Bill
The anti-marijuana bill was brought about by advocates who find past cannabis use to not affect job performance.
“Many tests for cannabis show only the presence of non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites from past cannabis use, including 30 days in the past, that does not correlate with an applicant’s future job performance. The legislature intends to prevent restricting job opportunities based on an applicant’s past use of cannabis,” the bill reads.
The Future of the Anti-Marijuana Discrimination Bill
If the bill passes, Washington will be joining other states that have passed similar legislation. Nevada currently has a law that prohibits employers from discriminating against workers that have tested positive for cannabis.
New York. California and other states have broader protections in place for employees who use legal cannabis outside of the workplace.
The Washington bill is currently pending action from Gov. Jay Inslee. It is one of the many drug-related bills Inslee has had to vote on this session.
For instance, the legislature recently passed a bill to approve the research on psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and to create a pilot program that would allow psychedelics to be used for mental health treatments.
Another measure was passed by Washington lawmakers last week that would allow the government to enter into agreements with other states where cannabis was legal to create access to interstate cannabis commerce if a federal policy change were to go into effect.
Can Employers Deny Employment for Marijuana Use?
The anti-marijuana discrimination bill may cause workers to wonder where they stand when it comes to cannabis use and their profession. That all depends on the laws in your state.
If your state has “at will” employment, it means your company can fire workers without a “just cause”. Therefore, your boss can fire you for marijuana use regardless of state and federal law.
Some states also provide “outs’ for employers. For example, California’s Proposition 62 legalized the use of recreational marijuana but also states that employers can penalize workers that test positive for cannabis use regardless of whether they were high on the job.
What’s more, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Therefore, employees that work federal jobs or jobs in federally regulated industries like banking, healthcare, and transportation, can be prohibited from using marijuana, even during off hours.
Employers and employees outside of these industries should stay abreast of changes in drug use and drug testing laws so they know where they stand. Employees in states where cannabis use is legal should not act against employees without first speaking to an attorney.
Workers and employers should also be aware of the differences that apply to the recreational and medical use of marijuana. States with “compassionate care” statutes that allow medical marijuana tend to prohibit employers from firing employees or rejecting applicants due to marijuana use.
Employers are still permitted to mandate a drug-free workplace and enforce a zero policy for drug use regardless of state laws. However, they need to be aware of whether their employees are medical marijuana patients and whether their usage of cannabis is protected by law.
Company policies regarding anti-marijuana discrimination will vary depending on the state and industry you work in. Most states that have legalized marijuana leave company policy to the employer’s discretion. Some states have policies that force employers to make special accommodations for medical marijuana patients.
If you are unsure about your state’s stance on anti-marijuana discrimination, do some research before applying to your next job.