A new bill presented with bipartisan support in Congress would prevent federal employees from being fired for using marijuana. A similar bill was proposed last year but eventually died. Some nuances in the current proposal have Congress members optimistic it will pass. If it were to pass, this would provide a significant step toward legalizing marijuana on the federal level.
New Bill Would Protect Federal Employees Who Use Marijuana
A bill introduced to Congress by Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Don Young (R-AK) would protect federal employees from being fired for marijuana use in states that have legalized the plant.
Named the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act, this bill wants to protect federal employees who use cannabis in accordance with state marijuana laws.
The current policy allows employers to fire employees or not hire candidates based on marijuana use.
Rep. Crist mentioned veterans as one such group that would benefit from the protections in the bill.
“For our veterans’, cannabis has been shown to address chronic pain and PTSD, often replacing addictive and harmful opioids. At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of our veterans’ community. This conflict, between medical care and maintaining employment, needs to be resolved,” said Crist. “For federal employees complying with state cannabis law, they shouldn’t have to choose between a proven treatment and their job.”
Veterans represent a large portion of the federal workforce, and it is true that many of them have sought alternative treatments for PTSD or pain.
Rep. Young also commented on why he found this legislation necessary.
“I’m pleased to join Representative Crist in introducing this legislation today. I truly believe that this Congress we will see real reform of our nation’s cannabis laws – reform based on a states’ right approach,” said Young.
“This bill would protect federal workers, including veterans, from discrimination should they be participating in activities compliant with state-level cannabis laws on their personal time. The last thing we need is to drive talented workers away from these employment opportunities. As a Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus I remain committed to promoting this bill as well as other legislation to protect individuals and reform our federal cannabis laws.”
The bill includes a couple of nuances.
If an employee is suspected of being intoxicated while working, employers can still conduct probable cause drug testing.
Also, these protections would not extend to those applying for or working in positions with top-secret security clearances.
Crist proposed a similar bill in August of 2018.
It is unknown what the likelihood is for the current proposal to pass through Congress.