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D.C.

  • by NORML May 15, 2020

    Municipal officials in various cities nationwide are moving away from policies requiring marijuana testing for public employees.

    In the city of Rochester, council members approved municipal legislation on Tuesday barring pre-employment marijuana testing for non-safety sensitive city employees. The new law took effect immediately upon passage.

    Also this week, city council members in Richmond, Virginia passed a resolution excluding non-safety sensitive employees and job applicants from marijuana testing. NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as Executive Director for Virginia NORML, praised the council’s vote. “Virginia’s first medical dispensaries will open this year, and the Commonwealth is in the process of studying a regulatory framework for adult-use,” they said. “Now is the time for municipalities throughout the state to review and update their policies so they may better align with state law and public opinion.”

    Virginia lawmakers in April passed legislation decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses and expanding the state’s medical cannabis access law earlier. Those new laws take effect on July 1, 2020. Richmond’s drug testing measure awaits action from city Mayor Levar Stoney, who supports the policy change.

    Earlier this month, municipal legislation took effect in New York City making it unlawful “for an employer, labor organization, employment agency, or agent thereof to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of any tetrahydrocannabinols or marijuana in such prospective employee’s system as a condition of employment.” Exceptions to the new law include those employees seeking certain safety sensitive positions – such as police officers or commercial drivers – or those positions regulated by federal drug testing guidelines.

    Washington, DC Mayor Mariel Bowser signed a similar order last fall limiting the ability of District employees or applicants to be drug tested for the presence of cannabis.

    Both Maine and Nevada have enacted state-specific legislation barring certain employers from refusing to hire a worker because he or she tested positive for cannabis on a pre-employment drug screen.

    Commenting on the trend, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s war on drugs. But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality.”

    Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, “Marijuana Legalization and Impact on the Workplace.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 18, 2019

    Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an order on Tuesday providing explicit protections for certain District employees who consume cannabis while away from the job. The new rules apply to all District government agencies under the direct administrative authority of the Mayor.

    Under the rules, many would-be employees will no longer face pre-employment drug screenings. The order states: “Employees who are not in a safety-sensitive position will be tested for drugs only upon reasonable suspicion, or after an accident or incident. Thus, those employees not in safety-sensitive positions may find that they can use cannabis, with or without a medical card authorizing [it], so long as they are not impaired at work.”

    Commenting on the policy change, NORML Political Associate Tyler McFadden said: “Employment protections are critical to ensure that law-abiding adults are not unduly discriminated against in their efforts to be productive members of society solely because of their use of cannabis while off the job. This order provides clarity and guidance to employers and peace of mind to the employees who work in the District of Columbia.”

    For workers seeking safety-sensitive positions, the order states that those who test positive for the presence of cannabis on a pre-employment drug screen may be provided with a “second opportunity to take a drug test at least two weeks after the initial test results have been provided.”

    In cases involving post-accident testing, a positive drug test result for cannabis metabolites will continue to be viewed as presumptive evidence of impairment. However, this “presumption may be overcome if the employee presents clear or convincing evidence that he or she was not impaired at the time of the test.”

    Because THC’s primary metabolite, carboxy-THC is lipid soluble, residual levels of the compound may persist in urine for weeks or even months post-abstinence. According to the US Department of Justice, a positive urine test screen for drug metabolites “does not indicate abuse or addiction, recency, frequency, or amount of use; or impairment.”

    Earlier this month, members of the DC City Council approved Act Number A23-0114: The Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Temporary Amendment Act, which seeks to impose explicit protections for medical cannabis patients against workplace discrimination. It states: “A public employer may not refuse to hire, terminate from employment, penalize, fail to promote, or otherwise take adverse employment action against an individual based upon the individual’s status as a qualifying [medical cannabis] patient. … A qualifying patient’s failure to pass a public employer-administered drug test for marijuana components or metabolites may not be used as a basis for employment-related decisions unless reasonable suspicion exists that the qualified patients was impaired by marijuana at the qualifying patient’s place of employment or during hours of employment.” Like all District legislation, the act must undergo a 30-day Congressional review prior to taking effect.

    Additional legislation seeking to strengthen employment protections for qualifying patients remains pending before the DC Council.

    The full text of Mayor’s order is online here.

  • by NORML September 5, 2019

    District council members have enacted legislation — Act Number A23-0114: The Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Temporary Amendment Act — to protect qualified patients from workplace discrimination.

    The Act states, “A public employer may not refuse to hire, terminate from employment, penalize, fail to promote, or otherwise take adverse employment action against an individual based upon the individual’s status as a qualifying [medical cannabis] patient unless the individual used, possessed, or was impaired by marijuana at the individual’s place of employment or during the hours of employment.”

    It further states, “A qualifying patient’s failure to pass a public employer-administered drug test for marijuana components or metabolites may not be used as a basis for employment-related decisions unless reasonable suspicion exists that the qualified patients was impaired by marijuana at the qualifying patient’s place of employment or during hours of employment.”

    The law does not apply to either employees in “safety sensitive positions” or to those who are required to undergo drug testing as a federal requirement.

    Council members voted 12 to zero in favor of the proposal. Mayor Muriel Bowser did not sign the measure.

    Like all District legislation, the act must undergo a 30-day Congressional review prior to taking effect.

    Commenting on the Act, NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf said: “Employment protections are critical to ensure that law-abiding adults are not unduly discriminated against in their efforts to be productive members of society solely because of their use of medical cannabis while away from the job. The enactment of this law will provide clarity to employers and peace of mind to the employees who work in the District of Columbia.”

    To date, 15 states provide workplace protections for medical cannabis patients. Two states, Maine and Nevada, provide limit certain non-safety sensitive employers from taking punitive actions against any adult who uses cannabis while off the job.

    Read the full text of the Act here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director November 11, 2015

    The results are in from Washington, D.C. one year after 70% of the voters chose to end cannabis prohibition: A nearly 100% reduction in marijuana-related arrests!

    According to the Washington City Paper, the number of annual arrests for marijuana dropped from 895 in 2014 to 7 so far in 2015 (a 99.4% reduction in arrests; an even greater percentage drop in marijuana-related arrests occurred between 2013 and now, when there were 1,215 arrests).

    This dramatic reduction in marijuana arrests is consistent with the prior experience in the other states where voters have cast off unpopular cannabis prohibition laws. Post prohibition, arrest rates for marijuana-related offenses in Colorado and Washington State dropped from nearly 12,ooo annually to <200.

    Washington, D.C.’s huge reduction in arrest rates is not a result of legalized marijuana (where such a policy allows for the legal cultivation and selling of marijuana, and that government regulates and taxes the production and sale of marijuana products). Instead, in the nation’s capital cannabis has been fully de-penalized where adults can cultivate a personal amount of marijuana and possess up to two ounces, but, there is no legal source to purchase marijuana and the government derives no taxes or fees (however, Washington, D.C. does have medical marijuana laws, where approximately 8,000 registered medical patients who’re qualified can legally purchase marijuana products at up to four retail locations).

  • by NORML December 10, 2014

    A rider was included in the final version of the House omnibus appropriations bill with the intent blocking the implementation of Washington, DC’s 2014 marijuana legalization initiative.

    As written, the rider seeks to restrict the District from utilizing federal or local funds to “to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.” A summary of the provision posted on the House Appropriations Committee website acknowledges that the language is intended to prevent any funds from being used to “implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.”

    Washington DC’s Initiative 71 was approved by over 70 percent of District voters in November. The initiative seeks to legalize the adult possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivation of three mature and three immature plants.

    “This rider is an affront to the concept of democracy,” commented NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Seven out of ten voters in Washington, DC cast their ballot in favor of ending prohibition and legalizing the adult possession and limited cultivation of marijuana, this attempt by members of Congress to flout the will of the people is a gross injustice to these voters and to the democratic system.”

    The House will vote on the final version of the omnibus bill in the next couple days and then it must be approved by the Senate. This rider has no impact on the District’s current decriminalization or medicinal marijuana policies. NORML will keep you updated as the situation develops and what precisely this means for legalization in the nation’s capital.

    Further coverage regarding this rider and its potential impact on the District is available from the Washington Post, Roll Call, and CNN.

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