There are a growing number of states that now recognize recreational cannabis as legal. However, lawmakers are still struggling to reach an agreement whether to allow employers to reject an applicant on the basis of recreation cannabis use. The state of Nevada is the first state to protect job applicants against discrimination stemming from their cannabis use.
Assembly Bill 132 makes it illegal for Nevada employers to reject job applicants based on cannabis test results. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed the bill on June 5, which will take effect on January 1st, 2020.
While the law is good news for many Nevadans seeking employment opportunities, the law provides very specific exclusions. Applicants to public safety positions like firefighters and emergency medical technicians will still undergo pre-employment cannabis testing.
The law also excludes motor vehicle operators as well as other job positions that an employer may deem necessary to ensure the safety of others at all times.
“As our legal cannabis industry continues to flourish, it’s important to ensure that the door of economic opportunity remains open for all Nevadans. That’s why I was proud to sign AB 132 into law, which contains common-sense exceptions for public safety and transportation professionals,” said Sisolak.
In 2016, Nevadans voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. This took effect on January 1st, 2017.
Nina Neal (D), Las Vegas Assemblywoman, said that the state did not have a policy that protects legal cannabis users against employment discrimination. This is despite the popularity of legal cannabis in Nevada.
The Assemblywoman said she opposed the legalization of recreational cannabis in the state. However, once the ballot passed, she knew that they have to create a new policy to guide employers from discriminating against legal marijuana users.
Neal added, “I was driving around my district and I realized that the [legal weed] dispensaries were like nightclubs and I was worried, and I was just like, ‘This is going to have a negative effect’.”
She also said that the state gained $42 million in revenues from legal marijuana sales in the first year alone.
“I felt like we needed to have a policy to deal with it because we had a significant amount of people using on the weekends,” she said.
Pre-employment cannabis urine tests can detect the substance for up to several weeks from last use. Neal was concerned that many of her constituents would not be able to avail of employment opportunities.
“I hope that employers actually try to not discriminate against recreational users because once we made it lawful through the ballot, the ballot question said it needed to be treated the same as alcohol,” Neal added.
This predicament is not unique to Nevada, however. Other states also struggle with the formulation of a pre-employment cannabis testing policy.
For example, Maine employers cannot discriminate against applicants with a history of pot use. However, the state still doesn’t have a specific policy regulating drug testing.
The City of New York passed a law last month, prohibiting employers from weed testing as a requirement for pre-hiring. This is despite the fact that the state of New York has yet to legalize recreational cannabis.
“It’s clear that we cannot wait until legalization on the state level before moving to reduce the impact that marijuana prohibition has had on individuals and communities,”
Jumaane Williams, New York City Public Advocate, said in a statement. Williams added,
“Testing isn’t a deterrent to using marijuana, it’s an impediment to opportunity that dates back to the Reagan era — a war on drugs measure that’s now a war on workers. We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less — and if prospective employers aren’t testing for past alcohol usage, marijuana should be no different.”