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D.C. lawmakers pass a bill that would ban firing employees for failed marijuana tests

In this April 12, 2018, photo, a marijuana plant awaits transplanting at the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company near Shelton, Wash.  Thirty states have legalized some form of medical marijuana, according to a national advocacy group. Nine of those states and Washington, D.C., also have broad legalization where adults 21 and older can use pot for any reason.
Ted S. Warren
/
AP
In this April 12, 2018, photo, a marijuana plant awaits transplanting at the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company near Shelton, Wash. Thirty states have legalized some form of medical marijuana, according to a national advocacy group. Nine of those states and Washington, D.C., also have broad legalization where adults 21 and older can use pot for any reason.

The city council in Washington, D.C. unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that, if approved by Mayor Muriel Bowser, would stop employers from firing employees who fail marijuana drug tests.

The bill, named the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022, would also ban employers from firing or refusing to hire an employee because of their recreational or medical marijuana use.

There are exceptions, though.

Employers won't be considered in violation of the legislation if they are acting under federal guidelines, or if an employee consumed marijuana at work or while performing work-related duties.

The bill also prohibits the "possession, storage, delivery, transfer, display, transportation, sale, purchase, or growing of cannabis at the employee's place of employment," it says.

Employers must evaluate "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," the bill says.

The bill does not cover people working in "safety-sensitive" occupations, such as police, security guards, construction workers, those who operate heavy machinery, health care workers, caretakers, or gas and power company employees.

Also excluded from the legislation are employees of the federal government and D.C.'s courts. It does, however, protect other District government employees.

If the bill passes, employers have 60 days to notify their employees of their new rights under the legislation and whether they are designated as safety-sensitive employees.

Thereafter, employers must provide that same notice annually and for each new hire.

If an employer violates the law, an employee has up to a year from the date of noncompliance to file a complaint with D.C.'s Office of Human Rights. Employers could face fines of up to $5,000, and must pay the employee's lost wages and attorney's fees.

The bill has been sent to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for approval. If she signs it, the bill will become law after a 60-day congressional review and the bill's publication in the District of Columbia Register.

Recreational marijuana use has been legal in D.C. since 2015. Anyone over the age of 21 can possess up to two ounces of marijuana, give away up to one ounce to another person of age, grow up to six marijuana plants and possess marijuana-related paraphernalia, such as bongs and rolling papers.

It is still illegal to sell marijuana, use marijuana on public property and operate a vehicle or boat under the influence of marijuana.

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