Under the bill, employers would be banned from rejecting a job candidate solely based on the results of pre-employment screening for marijuana consumption.
The Washington state Senate recently okayed a bill that would provide protections from pre-employment job discrimination for cannabis consumers. Senate Bill 5123 passed the state Senate last week by a 28-21 vote and will now move to the Washington House of Representatives for consideration.
Under the bill, employers would be banned from rejecting a job candidate solely based on the results of pre-employment screening for marijuana consumption. The legislation does not cover protection for other drugs, so screenings for other substances would still be in play during the hiring process.
The legislation does not offer protection for some jobs, including positions in the aerospace and airline industries. Also, the bill does not apply to professions requiring federal background checks or security clearances.
This bill allows the possibility of getting hired. Too many people who see a drug test requirement apply don’t even apply.
While the legislation protects potential employees from drug tests while applying for a job, the measure does not exclude employers from subjecting their workers to drug screenings for marijuana during employment.
Companies will also be able to fire employees who test positive for marijuana to support a drug-free work environment. Employers could also require employees to take a drug test for marijuana consumption if they suspect a worker is impaired by cannabis during work hours or after a workplace accident.
Washington legalized adult-use marijuana in 2012.
Washington legalized recreational cannabis in 2012 through the passage of a ballot measure supported by nearly 56% of voters. But while the legislation protected cannabis consumers from prosecution, the initiative ensures protections for employers who use marijuana off the clock.
The first state to ensure rights for job applicants from pre-employment drug tests for marijuana was Nevada in 2019. Since then, a handful of other states have similarly passed employment protection bills, including a California measure protecting workers from discrimination based on their consumption of marijuana while clocked out of work that passed in 2022.
Marijuana advocates supporting employment protections note that drug screenings can only discern the presence of cannabis metabolites, which can remain in your system multiple days after using cannabis.
Unlike alcohol, research suggests that cannabis consumption does not significantly impair job performance. As such, companies should re-think their guidelines concerning marijuana use to create a more equitable approach to cannabis consumers.