WA Bill to Protect Marijuana Users When Job Hunting Sent to Governor

Legislation that would prohibit businesses from refusing to hire someone for testing positive for marijuana has been sent to Governor Jay Inslee for consideration.

Senate Bill 5123 was passed last week by the House of Representatives 57 to 41, after having already passed the Senate 28 to 21. Given it was amended slightly in the House it required a concurrence vote in the Senate before it could be sent to Governor Inslee. Now that the bill has been approved through concurrence, Governor Inslee has the option of signing the measure into law, allowing it to become law without his signature or vetoing it.

The measure states that “It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in the initial hiring for employment if the discrimination is based upon:

(a) The person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace; or
(b) An employer-required drug screening test that has found the person to have nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids.”

“The legislature finds that the legalization of recreational cannabis in Washington state in 2012 created a disconnect between prospective employees’ legal activities and employers’ hiring practices”, states the preamble to the bill, introduced by Senator Karen Keiser along with nine cosponsors. “Many tests for cannabis show only the presence of nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites from past cannabis use, including up to 30 days in the past, that have no correlation to an applicant’s future job performance.”

It continues: “Applicants are much less likely to test positive or be disqualified for the presence of alcohol on a preemployment screening test compared with cannabis, despite both being legally allowed controlled substances. The legislature intends to prevent restricting job opportunities based on an applicant’s past use of cannabis.”

Senator Karen Keiser, the bill’s lead sponsor, said that this is “a victory against discrimination toward people who use cannabis. For people using a legal substance, many of them for medical reasons, locking them out of jobs based on a pre-employment test is just plain unfair, and we are putting a stop to it.”

This would not apply to an applicant applying for a position that requires a federal government background investigation or security clearance or in the airline or aerospace industries, “or any other safety sensitive position for which impairment while working presents a substantial risk of death.”

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