D.C. is taking a big step towards preventing employers from enforcing mandatory drug tests for cannabis on potential employees.
Per Marijuana Moment, the state’s lawmakers approved a bill that would stop most potential workers from becoming subject to applicants to test for marijuana. The Washington, D.C. Council committee unanimously agreed on the legislation to prevent pre-employment marijuana tests from taking place.
The Labor & Workforce Development Committee passed the bill, which Democratic Councilmember Trayon White sponsored. He’s made an extended effort to repair many of the social inequities that have historically penalized Black and Brown communities. He explained a dire need to eradicate these punishments towards D.C. citizens for partaking in recreational or medical cannabis in their private time.
The legislation dives deeper into the inequities surrounding cannabis use. The D.C Council previously passed a bill that protected employees within local governments against mandatory workplace drug tests for cannabis. However, the latest bill also adds concise language that constitutes pre-employment testing for cannabis “an unlawful, discriminatory practice.”
The bill states that “it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer, labor organization, employment agency, or agent thereof to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of any tetrahydrocannabinol or marijuana in such prospective employee’s system as a condition of employment.”
There are a few exemptions to the rule, though. Workers who are dealing “with the potential to significantly impact the health or safety of employees or members of the public” won’t be exempt from having to submit marijuana tests at their employer’s discretion. This exemption includes cops, those with a commercial license, construction workers who need safety training, caretakers for children and patients. Additionally, those contracted by the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) will be exempt from this bill.
It’s worth noting the bill itself distinctively states that this isn’t a hall pass for employees to head to work under the influence of cannabis. The legislation specifically says that employers do not have the authority to “permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growing of marijuana in the workplace.” While cannabis may be legal in D.C., some rigid rules still prevent even dispensary bags from being present on the premises.
The ban on pre-employment drug testing for marijuana reflects a slowly growing trend across the states. Marijuana prohibition at a federal level continues to create complications within local and state laws. Many applicants can face refusal for job positions because they test positive for cannabis, even in legal states.
A few states have already adjusted drug testing policies to reflect cannabis legalization. In late 2021, New York enacted a new bill that prevented employers from drug testing their workers for employees altogether. Legislation signed during Gov. Cuomo’s tenure essentially bans discrimination against those who decide to use cannabis during their private time. There were similar exemptions to D.C., like those hired by the Department Of Transportation.
However, there are local laws that are making leeway. Before New York state passed the bill, New York City previously boasted similar law that stopped employers from testing prospects. However, an amended bill added even more exemptions from the ban on marijuana testing. At the beginning of 2022, Philadelphia also deemed testing for marijuana an “unlawful” act towards prospective employees. However, Philadelphia’s bill didn’t specify whether current employees would have to face regular tests for cannabis use.
Chuck Schumer said he’d file a new cannabis legalization bill in April. Hopefully, if it passes, the small changes to workplace marijuana testing in D.C. and New York could create widespread differences in other states across the country.