OLYMPIA – New hires in Washington will no longer have to take cannabis tests as a condition of employment, under legislation passed today by the House. Washington joins California and Nevada in banning pre-employment discrimination based on cannabis.
Having received minor amendments in the House, the bill will return to the Senate for a vote on concurrence before going to the governor’s desk to be signed.
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), will ban pre-employment cannabis tests.
“This is a victory against discrimination toward people who use cannabis,” said Keiser, chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. “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.”
“It makes no sense to limit our state’s workforce by deterring qualified job applicants, especially at a time when the number of unfilled positions is at historic highs. This legislation opens doors for people who might otherwise not even put in an application — and that’s a win for workers and for employers.”
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. An amendment on the House floor also exempted fire fighters, police, and corrections officers.