Employment Rights For Legal Marijuana Users Addressed In New Bill

By Victoria Kim 07/31/18
Under the proposed legislation, federal employees living in pot-friendly states won't be penalized for their cannabis use.
Green cannabis leaf in hand.

New legislation proposed in the House of Representatives would protect federal employees from getting fired for using cannabis.

The bipartisan bill—the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act—was introduced by Rep. Charlie Crist and Rep. Drew Ferguson last Thursday (July 26) and referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, according to Marijuana Moment.

The legislation would shield federal employees “whose residence is in a State where that individual’s private use of marijuana is not prohibited” from being denied employment or being “subject to any other adverse personnel action” as a result of a positive cannabis test, according to the bill’s text, obtained by Marijuana Moment.

The bill applies to employees of the federal government “across departments and agencies,” but not those involving “top secret clearance or access to a highly sensitive program.”

However, if there is “probable cause to believe that the individual is under the influence of marijuana” in the workplace, they may be terminated.

Tom Angell of Marijuana Moment notes that Rep. Crist previously proposed a measure to protect military veterans from being fired for cannabis use that is legal under state law.

However, the measure became one of nearly three dozen amendments having to do with cannabis policy that Republican leadership in the House has blocked from being voted on, as Angell reported in early July.

As more states approve cannabis for either medical or adult use, the rules around it when it comes to things like jobs or housing can get hazy.   

NORML—the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws—provides a Model Workplace Policy for Cannabis on its website to help employers navigate this new territory. This guide gives a comprehensive background of cannabis and its effects.

The difficult thing about enforcing DUI laws or anti-drug policies in the workplace with cannabis is the fact that its compounds may remain in a person’s system for days or even weeks after its use.

As a result, a positive test result from a standard urinalysis test would not “provide an employer with any indication as to whether the substance may have been ingested while their employee was on the job,” the guide explains.

This complicates an employer’s ability to determine whether an employee has violated policy by using on the job.

There has yet to be a standard test for cannabis impairment, which presents a challenge for law enforcement as well. 

As NPR reported last summer, “Despite the increasingly legal use of cannabis in many states, cops still don’t have the equivalent of a reliable alcohol breathalyzer or blood test—a chemically based way of estimating what the drug is doing in the brain.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr