By Alexandria Osborne
Washington State Journal 

Cannabis test can't be used to deny hiring in proposed law


Last updated 4/6/2023 at 11:56am

Employers would be prohibited from denying a person a job for their non-work-related cannabis use in a bill passed by the state Senate 28-21 and the House of Representatives 57-41.

Currently, there is one difference between the two houses. The House bill excludes people seeking positions as a first responder or corrections officer, or with a law enforcement agency or a fire department. Both bills exclude applicants in the aviation and aerospace industries because of federal transportation rules.

Beyond those exemptions, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5123 would prohibit discrimination from employers in the hiring process if it is based on a person’s cannabis use away from the workplace or if a drug test shows non-psychoactive cannabis in a person.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, the bill’s sponsor, said legal cannabis use outside can leave metabolites in a person’s body fat for weeks and does not indicate whether a person is impaired or not.

“It simply doesn’t make sense to base an employment decision on that kind of unreliable outcome and test,” she said. “It really comes down to discriminating against people who use cannabis.”

Rep. Suzanne Schmidt, R-Spokane Valley, said ESSB 5123 takes away rights from employers.

“It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment, and we feel that this bill is taking that ability away from the employer,” she said. “It doesn’t allow them to act in that responsible manner.”

Keiser said ESSB 5123 only applies to pre-employment, and not an employer's on-the-job drug policies.

But, the bill opens a door for people who might not have even applied to a job because they see the requirement for a drug test and would therefore be rejected, Keiser said.

“People don’t like to be rejected, so they don’t even apply,” she said. “The bottom line, currently, in our state is that for people who are using a legal substance, having a pre-employment test like this is really unfair, and we should do away with that.”

Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland, said the bill would not impact post-hiring drug policies in the workplace.

“This bill simply says that a person can’t be expected to follow the rules of a workplace where they are not employed,” Kloba said. “I think that this will have a positive impact on broadening the pool of workers available for jobs.”


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