With a Washington, D.C. law protecting local government employees against workplace discrimination due to their use of medical marijuana set to expire next month, lawmakers passed emergency legislation on Tuesday that temporarily extends the policy.
Councilmember David Grosso (D) introduced a resolution that triggers the emergency bill extending the workplace policy for 90 days after the mayor signs it. He also filed temporary legislation that would further extend it by 230 days but, unlike an emergency bill, that would have to go through the more time-consuming committee process.
Both the resolution and an accompanying emergency measure were unanimously approved by the District Council.
The resolution notes the the current medical marijuana workplace protections approved last year are set to expire on June 5 and “no permanent legislation is in place because the work on the permanent legislation was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic response.”
The circumstances “constitute emergency…making it necessary that the Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 be adopted after a single reading,” the resolution continues.
Under the emergency bill, “a public employer may not refuse to hire, terminate from employment, penalize, fail to promote, or otherwise take adverse employment action against an individual based upon the individual’s status as a qualifying patient unless the individual used, possessed, or was impaired by marijuana at the individual’s place of employment or during the hours of employment.”
There are exemptions to the drug testing ban for workers in safety sensitive positions or in situations where “compliance would cause the public employer to commit a violation of a federal law, regulation, contract, or funding agreement.”
Text of the legislation is identical to that of the prior Council-passed bill.
Grosso emphasized during Tuesday’s meeting that “progress on moving a permanent bill has been interrupted by the pandemic” and he hopes “we can find a lasting and just solution once we emerge from this crisis.”
Watch the Council approve the medical cannabis protections, starting around 6:35 into the video below:
This is the latest example of lawmakers prioritizing workplace protections for people who consume cannabis.
The Richmond, Virginia City Council approved a resolution earlier this month that requests the city stop testing certain workers for marijuana as a condition of their employment.
Also this month, legislation broadly banning pre-employment drug testing for cannabis went into effect in New York City, with some exceptions.
Separately in D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) released a budget plan for the 2021 fiscal year this week that proposes to shift regulatory and licensing responsibilities for the city’s current medical cannabis program from the Department of Health to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. Advocates see that as a signal that the mayor is setting the stage for establishing a system of legal marijuana sales once federal restrictions are lifted.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.