The Washington, D.C. city council approved a bill on Tuesday that bans
Washington, D.C. legalized the medical use of cannabis in 2010. Recreational marijuana was first decriminalized in 2014, followed by the passage of a bill that legalized adult possession of up to two ounces of marijuana in 2015.
Under the legislation passed by the city council on Tuesday, employers must treat workers who use medical cannabis the same as other employees. The bill requires companies to consider “medical marijuana to treat a disability in the same manner as it would treat the legal use of a controlled substance prescribed by or taken under the supervision of a licensed health care professional.”
Employees fired for using marijuana while working or for being under the influence of cannabis on the job would not be protected by the bill. The legislation prohibits “possession, storage, delivery, transfer, display, transportation, sale, purchase, or growing of cannabis at the employee’s place of employment.”
If the bill is signed into law by Bowser, employers would have 60 days to inform employees of their rights under the measure and whether their jobs are protected by the bill. The notice must also be given to new employees and redistributed to all workers annually.
Employers who violate the measure face sanctions including a fine of up to $5,000 and liability for affected employees’ lost wages and attorney fees. Employees have up to one year to file a complaint of noncompliance with the district’s Office of Human Rights.
Beyond Washington D.C. – Employee Rights of Cannabis Users in the Spotlight
As cannabis legalization measures take hold across the country, many jurisdictions are including or adding employment protections for workers who use marijuana. Lawmakers in Virginia and Puerto Rico passed bills to protect registered medical marijuana patients last year, while a measure to protect the off-the-job use of cannabis is pending in the California legislature. Attempts to protect the employment rights of cannabis users failed this year in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Washington and West Virginia, however. At the local level, cities such as Atlanta, New York City, Philadelphia, Kansas City and St. Louis have passed ordinances that protect workers who use cannabis from employment discrimination.
After the state Department of Labor in New York announced last yea that employers would no longer be permitted to test most workers for cannabis, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano
“But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed,” Armentano continued. “It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.”
If Bowser signs the legislation, it will go into effect after a 60-day congressional review and publication in the District of Columbia Register.