D.C. Mayor OKs Use Of Cannabis By City Workers When They Are Not On The Job
When a state has legal marijuana for medical or recreational use, what happens when an employee fails a drug test? Should he or she be punished, or, worse, fired? It's a problem many public agencies and private companies face around the United States.
But now, Washington, D.C. decided to deal with the issue by simply eliminating it.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently issued an order that allows city workers to use cannabis when they are off the clock without worry, protecting the employee from losing their job if they fail a drug test the next day. In other words, D.C. is treating cannabis much like it treats alcohol.
In his order, Bowser wrote that he is issuing the change to give employees “maximum freedom to use cannabis in ways that are legal under existing District laws.”
But There Are Limits To Marijuana Use, Even Off The Clock
While the news is progressive, there are still limitations and rules around how city employees use marijuana. For instance, they cannot use cannabis for any reason while on the job. Also, they cannot use cannabis during their off hours if:
- It endangers others or themselves at work
- It impairs their productivity or ability to “effectively and efficiently” do their job
- It impairs the effectiveness of city operations
- It endangers clients, customers or the public
Testing positive on a drug test for marijuana use also cannot disqualify a person from consideration for a city job. Of course, there are exceptions to the new rules, as police officers and those who operate heavy machinery or drive maintenance vehicles don't have the same luxury as other city employees.
Still, it’s a notable leap forward for an area where recreational marijuana has been legal for years, as voters in D.C. approved legalized marijuana in 2014. However, a Republican-controlled Congress has kept legal sales from happening in D.C.
Jay Melber, the assistant city administrator of D.C., told American University public radio that the new rules are “really a recognition that, as we make cannabis use policies for the District of Columbia and its residents more equitable and fair and just and safe, we want our human resources policy to be reflective of those values.”
Hemp Legalization Makes This Even More Complicated
One issue making this more complicated is the legalization of hemp. In Florida and Texas — two states that haven’t even legalized recreational marijuana — prosecutors are not pursuing some cases of marijuana possession because drug tests have been known to give false positive readings for THC; even when those being tested have only used hemp-derived CBD.
Hemp contains CBD, an ingredient in marijuana that does not cause a “high.” It’s typically low amounts of THC, which is the chemical that does cause the high. However, some tests will give a positive reading, according to prosecutors.
In short, drug testing is a bit of tangle when it comes to marijuana. The move by D.C. might be foreshadowing of what lawmakers start doing across the country. At the very least, it provides somewhat of a blueprint for other public agencies and private companies located in states in which marijuana is legal.