Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Protect Federal Employees Who Use State-Legal Marijuana

Under a new bill, federal employees who use marijuana in accordance with state laws could not be fired for their marijuana use.(GETTY IMAGES)

By Claire Hansen

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS have introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting federal employees who use marijuana in accordance with state law.

The legislation, filed Tuesday by Reps. Charlie Crist, a Democrat from Florida, and Don Young, a Republican from Arkansas, seeks to protect federal job applicants and employees from being fired or not hired for using marijuana in line with the laws of the state in which they reside. Federal employees and applicants can currently be fired or denied employment over marijuana use, regardless of state laws.

The bill, dubbed the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act, is cosponsored by eight other House members – seven Democrats and one Republican.

In a statement Thursday, Crist framed the bill as a way to protect veterans who use cannabis to treat pain or post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans represent about a third of the U.S. federal workforce, according to numbers from 2017.

“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 veteranscommunity. This conflict, between medical care and maintaining employment, needs to be resolved,” Crist said in the statement. “For federal employees complying with state cannabis law, they shouldn’t have to choose between a proven treatment and their job.”

Marijuana Through the Years

Young, has introduced other marijuana reform bills, including a measure last week that would remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list. He said the bill would ensure a states-rights approach to marijuana law.

“I truly believe that this Congress we will see real reform of our nation’s cannabis laws – reform based on a states’ right approach,” Young said. “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.”

The measure would prohibit a positive marijuana drug test from being used as the only factor to deny or terminate federal employment for civilian positions at executive branch agencies as long as the individual is in compliance with the laws of their state. It does not bar employers from drug testing employees if they suspect the employee is impaired at work, and also does not apply to positions requiring a top-secret security clearance.

Crist introduced a similar bill with the same name last year in the 115th Congress, but it did not advance.

The current bill is backed by a cadre of marijuana rights and advocacy groups, including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Veterans Cannabis Coalition.

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