Washington bans pot-based hiring discrimination for most employers

Washington state has passed a law, effective January 1, 2024, banning hiring discrimination based on off-the-job cannabis use and the presence of non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in drug tests, opening up job opportunities for qualified applicants who use cannabis.

House Bill 5123 will also ban most employers from declining to hire a worker if a drug test shows the presence of ‘non psychoactive cannabis metabolites’

Logan Washburn
The Center Square Washington

Washington state will ban hiring discrimination over pot use starting Jan. 1, 2024.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed Senate Bill 5123 into law on May 9. The bill will ban most employers from discriminating against a job applicant for their cannabis use “off the job and away from the workplace.” The bill will also ban most employers from declining to hire a worker if a drug test shows the presence of “non psychoactive cannabis metabolites.”

“This is a victory against discrimination toward people who use cannabis,” said state Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, in a press release

The measure passed the state Senate by a vote of 30-18 and the state House by a vote of 56-41. Democratic state Sens. Noel Frame, Sam Hunt, Patty Kuderer, Mark Mullet, Joe Nguyen, Emily Randall, Derek Stanford, Kevin Van De Wege and Lisa Wellman joined Keiser in sponsoring the bill.

State Rep. Suzanne Schmidt, R-Spokane Valley, voted against the bill.

“We really feel like you’re taking rights away from the employers. This is a real safety issue,” she said in a speech on the House floor. “It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment, and we feel that this bill is taking that ability away.”

Keiser said she thinks the bill will open the job market to new applicants.

“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.”

The measure does allow hiring decisions based on “scientifically valid” drug tests that do not detect “non psychoactive cannabis metabolites.” The bill only applies to pre-employment testing and does not preempt state or federal laws requiring drug testing. Employers can require drug testing, including for cannabis, so long as they are not provided the results. 

This bill does not apply to jobs with a federal background check or security clearance, in airlines or aerospace, in state law enforcement, in fire departments, in dispatching or emergency medical services, in corrections or where impairment poses “substantial risk of death.” 

The Center Square reached out to the offices of Keiser and Stanford for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.

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1 Comment

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    This law is garbage! Hiring people who are stoned is a potential risk in any business. What about counting money when the brain is impaired. What if the stoned employee doesn’t lock up when leaving the building. What if they are working in a deli slicing meat for sandwiches and slice their hand because of being stoned? If there is any liability for mistakes made by stoned employees, will the government or legislators be responsible for the debt created for bodily harm, damages to business equipment or building ? What if a stoned employee causes a fire cooking or doesn’t turn off the stove when they leave? Would these stupid legislators carry insurance for the damages made by hiring stoned employees?
    Stoners don’t seem to be able to get out of bed to be at work on time. Stoners work in slow motion and are not as energetic has not impaired workers.
    Why don’t the legislators hire stoners for their staff and see how well it works out!


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