March 14, 2019
The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act (HR 1687) is bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Don Young (R-AK) to explicitly bar federal agencies from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a cannabis consumer, or due to testing positive for marijuana use on a workplace drug test.
Enacted in 1986, the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program made it a condition for employment that all civilian employees at executive branch agencies be prohibited from using federally illegal substances on or off duty. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 31 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, and 46 states have some form of medical marijuana law; however, it remains illegal under federal law. Therefore, federal employees can be denied employment or terminated due to testing positive for marijuana metabolites, even if their use is in compliance with state law. This conflict between state and federal laws limits treatment options and federal employment opportunities, particularly impacting veterans who comprise approximately one-third of the federal workforce and whose medical cannabis use to treat chronic pain and PTSD has been found to be double the rate of the general public. A recent American Legion poll found that one in five veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition.
“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 Congressman Crist. “For federal employees complying with state cannabis law, they shouldn’t have to choose between a proven treatment and their job.”
“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 Congressman Don 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 discriminatory practice of pre-employment drug testing for cannabis disproportionately hurts the ability for veterans and medical patients to achieve economic security and a feeling of self-worth,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “In order to protect the individual liberties of would-be employees and best position the federal government to attract top talent, the harmful ‘Green Box’ must be destroyed. The bipartisan nature of this effort and the bill’s sponsors underscore the absurdity of the status quo and we appreciate the leadership of Congressmen Charlie Crist and Don Young.”
Changes in the legal status of marijuana at the state level have not negatively impacted workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that the legalization of medical marijuana access is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.