A bill to protect workers in Washington State from facing employment discrimination over their use of marijuana during the hiring process is officially heading to the governor’s desk.
After some back-and-forth between the chambers over amended language, the Senate gave the bill final approval on Wednesday in a 30-18 vote.
The legislation from Sen. Karen Keiser (D) would prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants based on their cannabis consumption that’s legal in the state.
Happy 4/20, WA! You shouldn’t be penalized in job applications for enjoying a legal substance at home. #SB5123 — passed yesterday on a bipartisan vote — will protect employees from hiring discrimination due to cannabis use outside the workplace. #WALeg #PuttingPeopleFirst pic.twitter.com/KovV3O6SPv
— WA Senate Democrats (@WASenDemocrats) April 20, 2023
The reform is limited to job applicants. Employers would still be able to maintain drug-free workplaces, or prohibit the use of cannabis by workers after they are hired.
Also, people could still be denied jobs over marijuana in the airline and aerospace industries. And the bill doesn’t provide protections for safety sensitive positions or those that require federal background checks or security clearance.
The measure was amended several times throughout the legislative process. For example, it was revised to carve out protection exceptions for law enforcement, firefighters, first responders and correctional officers.
An amendment that would have transferred the statutory language to a different part of the state code was adopted by the House last month, but it was recodified after the Senate initially refused to concur with the change last week.
“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,” the bill text says.
“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. “The legislature intends to prevent restricting job opportunities based on an applicant’s past use of cannabis.”
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If enacted, Washington would join Nevada in prohibiting discrimination against job applicants for testing positive for marijuana. Several other states, such California and New York, provide broader employment protections for adults who legally use cannabis during off-hours and away from work.
The bill is now pending action from Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who has received a number of drug policy proposals this session.
For example, the legislature recently passed a bill that would promote research into psilocybin and create a pilot program to provide therapeutic access to the psychedelic for mental health treatment
Lawmakers passed another measure last week that would allow the governor to enter into agreements with other legal marijuana states to engage in interstate cannabis commerce, pending a federal policy change.