Bill To Stop Employers From Testing For THC Proposed

By Paul Gaita 02/23/18

The Wisconsin State representative who proposed the bill says people who use marijuana "should not be stigmatized." 

Chemist analyzing sample in laboratory room.

A Democratic representative from Wisconsin has introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from requiring current or prospective employees to undergo drug screens for THC, the chemical compound in marijuana that produces a euphoric response in users.

State Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) wants to prevent workers from losing their livelihood weeks after consuming marijuana due to the length of time in which THC remains in the bloodstream, which can last up to 65 days. Bowen said that federal workers and those operating heavy machinery should not be exempt from such screening, and that his proposal would not require changes to Wisconsin's existing marijuana laws, which currently prohibit medical or recreational marijuana, albeit with a number of municipal exceptions.

WMTV in Madison quoted Bowen as saying that until marijuana is legalized and regulated for medicinal and recreational use in the Badger State, which he supports, individuals who do consume cannabis "should not be stigmatized for using a substance whose effect on society is less negative than society's reaction to it." Bowen notes that among the residents his bill would protect are workers who travel to states where marijuana is legal, and upon returning to Wisconsin, face penalties from their employers, both current and/or prospective.

"Consuming THC weeks or months out from a job interview should not disqualify someone from finding employment any more than someone who drank a few beers on another date should be kept out of work," said Bowen. Cannabinoids like THC can remain in the user's body for some time; as High Times noted, the chemical will remain in the blood and saliva for one to two days after use, but a urine test would detect the presence of THC from between five and 65 days after last use.

Bowen's bill would not legalize marijuana in Wisconsin, nor would it change existing state laws, which explicitly restrict the use of marijuana for recreational use. Medical use of marijuana is limited to the use of non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) for seizure disorders, but several cities and counties have passed their own decriminalization bills that apply within their own borders. In 2015, the state's largest city, Milwaukee, passed an ordinance which imposes a $50 fine—the smallest in Wisconsin—for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, while the state capitol, Madison, imposes a maximum fine only of $100 for possession of up to 28 grams.

Current state law classifies possession of any amount as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, while subsequent charges are considered felonies and carry a possible sentence of more than three years with a $10,000 fine.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.