Chapters for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) from California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have formed a coalition to help fight the testing of employees for marijuana – now that it is a legal substance for all adults in those states.
“Even though marijuana is legal and readily available in several states, consumers are being unfairly forced to choose between their job and consuming off the clock as a result of out-of-date employment practices,” said Kevin Mahmalji, National Outreach Coordinator for NORML. “That is why many NORML chapters active in legal states are now shifting their attention to protecting honest, hardworking marijuana consumers from these sort of antiquated, discriminatory workplace drug-testing practices, in particular the use of random suspicionless urine testing.”
NORML’s Workplace Drug Testing Coalition’s efforts will focus on four areas:
- Reform workplace drug testing policies
- Expand employment opportunities for marijuana consumers
- Clarify the difference between detection technology and performance testing
- Highlight off-duty state law legal protections for employees
As NORML and many other individuals and organizations have pointed out, metabolites from marijuana can remain in someone’s system for weeks after use; obviously someone who smoked a joint Saturday night is not going to be high and unable to do their job Monday morning.
“One of the most frequently asked questions we have been getting since Prop. 64 passed legalizing adult marijuana use in California last November is, ‘Am I now protected against drug testing on my job?’” said Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML. “Sadly in our state, not even medical marijuana patients are protected against job discrimination, and it’s a priority of Cal NORML to change that. We are hoping to get a bill introduced at the state level and are working with legislators, unions, and other reform groups to make that happen.”
As legalization laws advance around the country, workplace drug testing is an issue that is going to come up time and time again. Activists, organizers and lawmakers would do well to address the issue within their cannabis legalization proposals going forward, but in many states the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and judging someone for consuming a legal substance in their off hours is not only unfair, it is counterproductive as well. How many people will lose their jobs and how many employers will lose valuable employees to a pointless policy? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: it’s a problem that needs to be remedied in many states in the near future.