When cannabis becomes legal in a state things can get a little confusing when it comes to employer’s drug testing policies. After all, cannabis is still illegal under federal law, so it makes sense that at least some jobs would still prevent you from using it even if it is legal under state law. However, unless the job is related to the federal government, they really shouldn’t have a say in what you can and cannot do in your free time – and a new bill in Oregon aims to ensure that.
A law that is already on the books in Oregon makes it illegal for employers to fire employees on the grounds that they smoke tobacco – as long as they don’t smoke on company time. Senate Bill 301 aims to amend that law, changing the wording from “lawful tobacco products” to “a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state” – which doesn’t specifically mention cannabis, but is clear enough to get the point across.
If passed, the law would read: “It is an unlawful employment practice for any employer to require, as a condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from using [lawful tobacco products] a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state during nonworking hours.”
This would mean that employers could no longer fire people over cannabis use, as long as they are doing so on their own time and not on company time. For many people, this would be a welcome change to the law as they either cannot enjoy the state’s legal cannabis because of work, or they have already lost a job due to failing a drug test, even if the only thing they screened positive for was marijuana.
Unfortunately, people losing jobs and not being able to receive unemployment after being fired for using marijuana legally – even when it’s medicinal and recommended by a doctor – is a growing occurrence and it happens all over the nation in the many states that have made it legal for qualifying patients or adults over the age of 21 to consume. If Oregon makes this change they will be the first to ensure people (or at least most of them) will not have to fear losing their jobs over their cannabis use.
When will this be ratified if at all?