OLYMPIA – New hires in Washington would no longer have to take cannabis tests as a condition of employment, under legislation passed today by the Senate.

Currently available cannabis tests work by detecting metabolites that can remain in the body for weeks after use, long after there is any chance they are causing impairment. This makes cannabis different from how alcohol and other drugs show up in tests and can lead to discrimination against people using a perfectly legal — and sometimes medically necessary — substance in a responsible way.

SB 5123, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), would ban pre-employment cannabis tests.

“It comes down to discriminating against people who use cannabis,” said Keiser, chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. “For people using a legal substance, having a pre-employment test like this is just plain unfair, and we should stop it.”

“At a time when the number of unfilled positions is extremely high, we shouldn’t be limiting our workforce by deterring qualified job applicants. This legislation opens the door for people who might otherwise not even apply for a position.”

The legislation would apply to pre-employment testing only. Employers could still maintain drug-free workplace policies for employees. It would not prohibit using tests for other drugs, and it would not prohibit using cannabis tests after accidents or because of suspicion of impairment.

It also would not apply to job applicants in airline and aerospace industries, or applicants for positions that require federal government background investigations or security clearances. Other jobs in Washington would be covered.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.