PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A bill passed by Washington’s House of Representatives on Wednesday aims to make Washington the third U.S. state to ban pre-employment marijuana tests.
The bill, sponsored by the chair of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee Sen. Karen Keiser, follows the lead of California and Nevada in eliminating marijuana from pre-employment drug screenings. After undergoing minor changes in the House, Keiser said that the bill is set to return to the Senate for final approval before it reaches Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk to be signed into law.
Although Washington legalized adult-use cannabis in 2012, businesses have maintained the right to screen potential employees for remnants of THC or “metabolites” that can remain in a person’s system for weeks after marijuana use. If passed, SB 5123 would prevent companies from testing candidates for use of the legal drug.
“This is a victory against discrimination toward people who use cannabis,” Keiser said. “For people using a legal substance — many of them for medical reasons — locking them out of jobs based on a pre-employment test is just plain unfair, and we are putting a stop to it.”
If passed, the legislation would only apply to pre-employment testing, and employers could still enforce “drug-free” workplace policies. The bill would prohibit other pre-employment drug tests. Pre-employment cannabis tests will still be permissible for some jobseekers, including prospective police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, applicants for any jobs requiring federal background checks or jobs in airline or aerospace industries.
“It makes no sense to limit our state’s workforce by deterring qualified job applicants, especially at a time when the number of unfilled positions is at historic highs,” Keiser said. “This legislation opens doors for people who might otherwise not even put in an application — and that’s a win for workers and for employers.”