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Smoke Weed and Keep Your Job? Yes, You Can-nabis (Maybe) Smoke Weed and Keep Your Job? Yes, You Can-nabis (Maybe)

Smoke Weed and Keep Your Job? Yes, You Can-nabis (Maybe)

Early last month, the city council in Washington, D.C., unanimously—and quietly—passed the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 (the “Act”), extending employment protections for residents who partake in both recreational and medical marijuana use. After much anticipation, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Act on July 13, 2022. The Act now heads to Congress for review—just like any other piece of legislation approved by the Washington, D.C., city council—so best to leave that Cheech and Chong poster rolled up in the corner just a bit longer. If Congress takes no action within 60 days, the Act officially becomes law.

Essentially, the Act does three things. First, it prohibits Washington, D.C., employers from terminating employees who fail marijuana drug tests. Further, it bans employers from terminating or refusing to hire an employee because of their recreational or medical marijuana use, and it also requires employers to evaluate the use of medical marijuana as treatment for a disability in the same manner in which it would evaluate the use of any other controlled substance prescribed by a provider. 

Of course, the Act has a few necessary exceptions. Its protections do not apply to people working in safety-sensitive occupations, such as law enforcement, construction, or healthcare. It also excludes employees of the federal government working within Washington, D.C., as well as employees of the Washington, D.C., court system, but it does apply to all other government employees within the district. Additionally, employers will not be considered in violation of the Act where they are acting under federal guidelines. Likewise, employers will still be permitted to terminate employees who are found to have consumed marijuana at work or while performing work-related duties. Simply put, the Act still permits employers to prohibit the possession, storage, sale, growth, and use of cannabis in the workplace—regardless of its form or purpose.

Assuming the Act becomes law in the next 60 days, employers will need to move quickly. Specifically, employers will have only 60 days to notify each of their employees of their new rights or whether they are designated as safety-sensitive such that the Act does not apply to their position. From there, employers must provide that same notice annually and to each new employee upon hire. 

If an employer violates the Act, an individual has up to one year from the date of the employer’s alleged noncompliance to file a complaint with the Washington, D.C., Office of Human Rights. Penalties for violation of the Act include fines of up to $5,000 per instance, and employers found to have violated the Act will also be on the hook for the employee’s lost wages, if any, and attorneys’ fees. Employers unsure of their obligations under the Act should consult legal counsel, and Ice Miller’s Workplace Solutions Group stands at the ready.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.
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