Now That Cannabis is Legal, Can an Employer Deny Me Employment Due to Use?


Ever since the beginning of medical and recreational legalization, cannabis use and how it affects employment has been a vague and occasionally contradictory topic. With both routines on the job testing policies and pre-employment testing still being major factors for employees across the country, many people wonder throughout the shifting cannabis laws whether or not their cannabis use will interfere with their income.

Some employees may also feel as if they are stuck between a rock and a hard place about the question as well since it can be intimidating asking an employer about their cannabis policies in fear that it may place them in a negative light. Fortunately, as recreational and medical marijuana become more commonplace, employers and lawmakers have begun to adapt their outdated drug policies to include and prevent discrimination towards responsible cannabis users.

A great example of law enforcement to workplace adaptation can actually be found in America’s capital, Washington DC. Despite the district’s strong ties to the federal government, both medical and recreational marijuana has been legalized for almost half a decade, and the city hosts numerous gifting services, smoke shops, and even some dispensaries.

Because a strong community of entrepreneurs, cannabis enthusiasts, and tourists exists here, DC’s current mayor, Muriel Bowser enacted a new mayoral order in the fall of 2019 stating that employers cannot create their own cannabis policies regarding use after work hours. Additionally, Bowser’s order declared that cannabis shouldn’t prevent citizens from obtaining and keeping government jobs either, with only a few exempt careers from the rule.

Naturally, this doesn’t mean that you can bring your bong to your office desk, or smoke a joint in between greeting and taking care of customers, as cannabis use in the workplace is still inappropriate and quite frankly, is still along the lines of termination. The main goal of this order is to ease the minds of not only recreational users but medical patients as well.

This means that for most jobs, medical marijuana users cannot be discriminated against simply for using a beneficial herb to improve their quality of life. Another factor to consider when dealing with cannabis testing is the longevity of detectable amounts of THC in the body. THC molecules love to bind to fat molecules, and as a result of this characteristic, traces of cannabis can be present for months, long after psychological effects have worn off, making current detection tests discriminatory to both one-time users and medical patients who must use cannabis daily.

To improve this dilemma, the “Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Temporary Amendment Act” was also approved to add more specific protection towards screening medical patients, making them exempt from the negative consequences of testing positive for THC while looking for work. Laws protecting cannabis users aren’t fully comprehensive yet, but many lawmakers are working towards solutions that help prevent bias while also keeping the workplace safe.


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