As of January 1st, Nevada officially became the first state to ban pre-employment drug screens for cannabis users.
Back in June 2019, Governor Steve Sisolak signed AB 132, a state law that bans Nevada’s employers from needlessly drug screening new job applicants. Typically, employers can use pre-employment drug screens to automatically eliminate applicants who test positive for marijuana. Now, this practice is pretty much illegal in the state, except under certain circumstances.
“Anybody over the age of 21 can possess or purchase cannabis. They should not be failing a drug test for cannabis as a condition of employment,” Jason Sturtsman, a professional cannabis consultant and member of Las Vegas NORML’s advisory board, told a local NBC affiliate. “If somebody wants to enjoy cannabis at home, in the comfort of their home, it is completely legal in the state of Nevada. They should not be excluded from a job.”
AB 132 will let most prospective job seekers off the hook when it comes to drug tests. That includes most fast food workers, culinary industry workers, office employees, and other jobs that either don’t include “safety sensitive” duties or belong to a trade union.
“It’s still going to be a big problem because there are exclusions for unions,” Madisen Saglibene, the executive director of Nevada NORML and Las Vegas NORML, told MERRY JANE last summer. Union jobs can include positions such as electricians or grocery store clerks. “The unions employ a lot of people in Las Vegas. And they definitely are not included in this legislation.”
On top of unions, positions deemed “safety sensitive” are also exempt from the drug-screening ban. These jobs include firefighters, medical personnel, police officers, construction workers, and professional drivers.
Furthermore, businesses may still craft and implement anti-cannabis policies in the workplace. In other words, just because weed is legal in Nevada doesn’t mean you can show up to work blazed AF. If employers think you’re toking on the job, they can still order a drug screen and fire you if you test positive.
“The law still allows for employers to have a drug policy, including for marijuana,” attorney Jeffrey Gronich said. “As far as the law says right now, they can still do random drug testing. So, it doesn’t prevent you — once you have the job — it doesn’t mean all’s free and clear. You can still be terminated for showing up to work under the influence.”
While Nevada is the first state to ban pre-employment drug screens for recreational marijuana, it’s neither the first nor the only state to block employers from unfairly discriminating against cannabis consumers.
Maine has banned employment discrimination against medical marijuana patients — and only medical patients — since the Pine Tree State launched its medical cannabis program in 1999. In August 2019, Oklahoma enacted similar drug screening rules for its medical marijuana patients.
Meanwhile, in California and Colorado — the first states to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, respectively — anyone can be legally terminated from their job if they test positive for weed, whether they need cannabis medically or not.
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