Bipartisan bill shields federal workers from being fired for marijuana
Marijuana Moment is a wire service assembled by Tom Angell, a marijuana legalization activist and journalist covering marijuana reform nationwide. The views expressed by Angell or Marijuana Moment are neither endorsed by the Globe nor do they reflect the Globe’s views on any subject area.
Federal agencies couldn’t fire employees in legalized states simply because they test positive for marijuana if a bipartisan bill that was introduced in Congress on Tuesday is enacted.
The legislation, filed by Representatives Charlie Crist and Don Young, along with eight other cosponsors, is designed to provide protections for federal workers who consume cannabis in compliance with state law. Under current law, federal employees can be terminated — or not even hired in the first place — over marijuana, regardless of state law.
As Crist’s office noted in a bill summary obtained by Marijuana Moment, this policy has a disproportionate impact on veterans, many of whom have turned to medical cannabis to treat pain and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Military veterans represent about one-third of the federal workforce.
“For our veterans’, cannabis has been shown to address chronic pain and PTSD, often replacing addictive and harmful opioids. At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of our veterans’ community. This conflict, between medical care and maintaining employment, needs to be resolved,” Crist said in a press release. “For federal employees complying with state cannabis law, they shouldn’t have to choose between a proven treatment and their job.”
The bill, titled the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act, wouldn’t prohibit employers from conducting probable cause drug testing when a worker is suspected of being intoxicated on the job, and it also doesn’t apply to federal employees applying for, or working in, positions that require a top-secret clearance.
Unlike the last version of the legislation, introduced by Crist during the 115th Congress, this bill extends the employment protections to people who use cannabis in accordance with policies of an “Indian tribe” and lands under free association with the United States.
Another difference between the two bills is that language was amended to specify that employees who test positive for THC metabolites could not be “subject to any adverse personnel action.” The word “personnel” was added, possibly because its exclusion might have been construed to inadvertently shield federal workers from criminal punishments even though cannabis remains illegal under federal law.
“I’m pleased to join Representative Crist in introducing this legislation today. I truly believe that this Congress we will see real reform of our nation’s cannabis laws – reform based on a states’ right approach,” Young said. “This bill would protect federal workers, including veterans, from discrimination should they be participating in activities compliant with state-level cannabis laws on their personal time. The last thing we need is to drive talented workers away from these employment opportunities. As a Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus I remain committed to promoting this bill as well as other legislation to protect individuals and reform our federal cannabis laws.”
After he introduced the previous version of the legislation last year, Crist said “it’s an issue of fairness, and it’s always been, for me, an issue also of compassion.”
Read the text of the new bill to protect cannabis consumers’ employment rights below: