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  • Writer's pictureAdele L. Abrams, Esq., CMSP

New DC Law Protects Cannabis-Using Workers

In June, the D.C. City Council unanimously passed legislation that would prevent employers from firing employees who fail tests for cannabis. The Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 would also ban employers from firing or refusing to hire workers because of recreational or medical marijuana use. There would be exceptions where employers must follow federal guidelines, and workers would still be barred from using cannabis at work or while performing work-related activities.

The bill prohibits possession, storage, delivery, transfer, display, transportation, sale, purchase or growing of cannabis at the workplace. The legislation also requires employers to evaluate medical marijuana for treatment of a disability in the same way as it would treat any legal use of a controlled substance, such as opiates, taken under the supervision of a health care professional. There are also exceptions for safety-sensitive jobs, including police, security guards, construction workers, those operating heavy machinery, health care workers and gas and power industry workers. The bill also excludes federal government employees and those of the DC courts from the protections. Employers have 60 days to notify workers of their new rights, and also to let them know if they fall within the safety-sensitive exemption. The notice must be renewed annually and also provided to new hires.

Employers who violate the law could be fined up to $5,000 and would also have to pay the worker’s lost wages and attorney fees if a worker files a complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights. The legislation must still be signed by Mayor Bowser, and would take effect after a 60-day congressional review and publication in the DC Register. Cannabis has been legal recreationally in DC since 2015, but Congress has blocked establishment of retail recreational sales outlets.

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