Max de Leon, right, a budtender at The Green Cross cannabis dispensary in San Francisco, hands a cleaning wipe to a customer. Although adults can legally use marijuana in California and many other states, they still can be fired for failing a workplace drug test.Jeff Chiu The Associated Press
Thirty-seven states now allow adults to use marijuana medically, recreationally or both. But in most of those states, people can be fired or denied a job for using cannabis in their free time.
Cannabis legalization advocates want states to do more to protect workers. They note that workplace drug tests don’t measure whether someone is high at the time of the test, just whether they’ve used recently. And they say workplace drug testing is an equity issue, as tests are more common in blue-collar jobs and disproportionately affect non-White workers.
But certain employers are required to test for marijuana under federal law—the federal government classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug akin to heroin—and others want to make sure they don’t employ drug users who could threaten workplace safety.
So far, 14 states and Washington, D.C., have banned employers from discriminating against workers who use marijuana for medical reasons. New Jersey and New York ban employers from discriminating against workers who legally use marijuana medically or recreationally. And Nevada bans employers from refusing to hire someone solely because they fail a marijuana test. The laws generally make exceptions for certain employers and occupations.
But bills have stumbled elsewhere because of opposition from business groups and disagreements over how to measure marijuana intoxication. A bill filed in Washington state this session already has been tabled. A California bill faces an uphill battle. And, in light of opposition, a Colorado bill will be softened to studying the issue.
The initial version of the Colorado bill would have affirmed the right of medical marijuana patients to use cannabis products at work and would have prevented employers from firing or refusing to hire workers who use marijuana off the job.
It was always going to be a heavy lift: The bill raised legal questions—particularly about the medical marijuana provisions—since Colorado’s 2012 ballot measure that legalized pot sales affirmed employers’ right to restrict worker marijuana use.
Within two weeks of filing the bill in early February, state Rep. Edie Hooton, a Democrat, told Stateline she planned to scrap it. Instead, she’ll propose that state officials convene employers, medical cannabis users and prescribers to study the workplace testing issue.
“I knew it was going to change,” Hooton said of her initial bill, which she said was modeled on draft legislation backed by medical cannabis advocates in other states. “I don’t want to be in opposition with organized labor or employers, like the Chamber of Commerce or organized business interests.”
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Sophie Quinton on PEW Research Center
Published: February 28, 2022
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News