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DC Bill Provides New Workplace Protections for Cannabis Users

Cannabis users in the District of Columbia rejoice at a new bill protecting their employment, reported the National Law Review. The district recently passed the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendments Act of 2022, which when made into law, shields employees who use marijuana from negative job-related actions.

DC has legalized medical marijuana since 2010 and made adult-use recreational marijuana accessible to residents in 2015. The new bill is expected to prevent cannabis users who are employed in the private and public sectors from being punished for their consumption of marijuana.

In the bill, employers are defined as “any person who, for compensation, employs an individual” except for family members working in their household such as their spouses, parents, or children who are “acting in the interest of such employer directly or indirectly.” Public employers are also included in this definition of employers.

According to the bill, employers do not have the right to fire, suspend, demote, refuse promotions, refuse to hire or penalize an employee due to their consumption of cannabis or possession of a medical marijuana card.

They also cannot use the presence of cannabis in employees’ bodily fluids after an employer-required or -requested drug test as an excuse without any signs of impairment.

Moreover, the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendments Act of 2022 also provides additional protections to medical marijuana users by requiring employers to handle a medical condition treated using cannabis in the same way that it handles other conditions treated using a controlled substance.

It is important to note that the bill permits employers to take adverse job action if employees show signs of impairment while working in safety-sensitive positions.

Impairment is an issue if the employee “manifests specific articulable symptoms whole working, or firing the employee’s hours of work, that substantially decrease or lessen the employee’s performance or those symptoms interfere with the employer’s obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace as required by District of federal occupational safety and health law.”

Employers can also take action if the individual does cannabis-related matters during their work hours in the workplace. These matters include using, consuming, storing, possessing, delivering, displaying, transporting, transferring, selling, purchasing, or growing the plant.

A point worth making is that cannabis consumers can still face adverse work-related actions if the federal law or contract authorizes it.

Any individual found in violation of the act will need to face actions by the Office of Human Rights including a fine of $1,000 at minimum for every instance for employers with a maximum of 30 employees. Those with 31 to 99 employees will face $2,500 or less in fines, while those with more than 100 employees will be fined a maximum of $5,000.

Repeat offences in under a year could face more than a 100% percent increase in fines. Lastly, any employees who experience marijuana-related adverse job actions can sue their employer for compensation, damages, equitable relief, attorney fees and cost, civil penalties, and other similar compensations.

The new bill, if passed, with be in effect within 60 days, while the DC Office of Human Rights provides an initial notice within 45 days.

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