On Tuesday, the city council of Washington, D.C. unanimously passed a bill that would prohibit employers from punishing or firing employees who use marijuana or test positive for the drug.
The bill is now awaiting approval by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. If signed into law, the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 would also block employers from refusing to hire those who use marijuana or test positive.
In recent years, similar protections have been adopted in states including Nevada and New York.
Still, there are some notable exceptions. The D.C. legislation, for example, would not apply to all occupations – and employees who use marijuana at work could still face consequences.
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The bill does not cover people working in a "safety sensitive" occupation – including health care professionals, security officers, police, construction workers and those who operate dangerous or heavy machinery.
In addition, employees of the federal government and the D.C. court system would not apply to the new protections. But other public employees, including those working in the District government, would be covered.
Employers would also still be allowed to take action against employees whose performance is "impaired by the use of cannabis." Those who use and/or possess marijuana at their workplace or during work hours, unless otherwise permitted, could similarly face consequences.
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Still, the new legislation could apply to many current and prospective employees in workplaces across D.C. If adopted into law, employers will have 60 days to notify their workers of their rights and whether or not their position qualifies for protections under the new legislation. In the future, employers would also be required to do this annually and for each new hire.
According to the bill, employers who violate the law could have to pay a fine of up to $5,000, the employee's lost wages and attorney's fees.
The Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 was first introduced as Prohibition of Marijuana Testing Act of 2021 in February of last year by Councilmembers Trayon White, Charles Allen, Christina Henderson, Kenyan McDuffie, Brianne Nadeau and Robert White.
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Medical cannabis has been legal in D.C. since 2010. Recreational marijuana and its possession in small amounts has been legal in D.C. for people 21 years and older since 2015. Still, it is illegal to sell marijuana, use the drug in public spaces or operate vehicles and boats under its influence, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
In April, the D.C. city council voted against imposing harsh penalties on marijuana "gifting" shops – where businesses sell products such as clothing or juice that comes with a "gift" of marijuana.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DC passes bill banning employers from firing workers for weed use
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