Washington Senate Passes Bill Protecting Cannabis Users From Hiring Discrimination

Cannabis users
March 16, 2023

The Washington Senate passed Senate Bill 5123, protecting cannabis users from pre-employment job discrimination. The Washington House of Representatives will soon review it after the state’s Senate passed it with a 28-21 vote.

Senate Bill 5123 would prevent employers from denying employment based on drug tests with positive results for cannabis. However, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Karen Keiser, emphasized that this bill protects you only from positive cannabis results. As such, employers can still screen for other drugs while hiring. Again, this bill does not protect you if your results test positive for other drugs.

This bill could open up new opportunities for cannabis users. However, should you use cannabis, remember that this protection applies only to the pre-employment process. Therefore, employers can run drug tests after hiring you and include cannabis results. As Keiser said, “This is simply opening the front door of getting into a job. Because too many people who see that they have to take a drug test to even apply, don’t even apply.” However, this bill does not apply to all jobs.

For example, these protections do not apply to positions in the airline or aerospace industries. It also does not protect you when applying for jobs that require a security clearance or a federal background check. Another exclusion by the bill involves positions where impairment could become a significant work hazard. This exclusion comes as an amendment from Senator Curtis King, who emphasized jobs where impairment could lead to “substantial risk of death.”

As a reminder, once an employer hires you, they can conduct drug screenings for cannabis as often as they choose. This freedom means employers could terminate you for testing positive for cannabis to maintain a drug-free workplace. For example, should you get involved in an accident or the employer suspects impairment in the workplace, they could have you drug tested and consider positive cannabis results.

Washington legalized recreational marijuana use in 2021 through the Initiative 502 ballot measure. Approximately 56% of voters supported this measure. Unfortunately, it did not protect users from adverse employment actions. Instead, it only protected you from prosecution for cannabis use.

If you use cannabis, Senate Bill 5123 will only protect you during the pre-employment process. Therefore, once employed, it is crucial to determine your employer’s drug policies. Regardless, you should run a self-background check for prior cannabis offenses or other issues. Before applying or interviewing, do not let misinformation or past offenses disqualify you from a particular position.

Try running a Self Background Check today and give yourself a head start on your next job opportunity.