Nevada is banning employers from refusing to hire qualified applicants who test positive for cannabis in drug screening tests. The state, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2017, became the first in the U.S. to approve such statewide drug test measure.
Assembly Bill No. 123 was signed into law by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak last month and will take effect on January 1, 2020.
There are, however, exceptions to this new rule. The exceptions will apply to firefighters, emergency medical workers, people who operate a motor vehicle, and other public safety professionals. These are jobs that require drug testing under U.S. federal law.
According to the bill, it is unlawful for any employer and business owner in the state to refuse to hire prospective employees who submitted to a drug screening test and whose results indicate the presence of cannabis in their system.
Moreover, employees who fail a cannabis drug screen test within their first month on the job will have the right to challenge the initial test results. They can submit to a second drug test at their expense.
Gov. Sisolak said that it is important to expand opportunities for all Nevadans as the state’s legal cannabis industry continues to flourish. According to him, the bill contains common-sense exceptions for professionals working in the field of public safety and transportation.
While Nevada is the first state to prohibit employers from rejecting potential employees on the basis of the latter’s cannabis test results, laws of similar nature already exist in other places.
In April this year, New York City decided to ban pre-employment drug testing. The state of Maine also forbids discriminating against potential employees based on their use of marijuana, but it does not have specific provisions on drug testing.
A major step to correct injustice
Cannabis advocates see this move as a major first step towards rectifying a clear injustice of the war on drugs. It is a fact that companies in the U.S. have the freedom to refuse to hire job applicants on the grounds that they use a totally legal substance. Even people who use cannabis for medical purposes and are legit medical cannabis patients have become victims to this employment practice.
Even in states where recreational cannabis is already legal, business owners and employers continue to maintain strict requirements for their employees when it comes to cannabis use. Even doctors lose their licenses for using medical cannabis. NFL players are also subjected to sanctions for using cannabis in the management of pain and the severe physical trauma that comes with the job in the first place.
It should also be noted that THC can stay in a person’s system for weeks or days after consumption. This means that testing positive for cannabis does not always mean that the person is high or in the habit of getting high regularly.
One other exception…
Aside from firefights, EMTs, workers whose job adversely affects public safety, and workers who are required by federal law to pass a drug test, other people who need to be subjected to drug tests are those with employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements. People under CBAs are union workers, and unions are wary of the new measure because the no-drug-testing policy could mean that it would be harder for them to get insured and to collect workers’ compensation in the event that an accident happens.
According to Madisen Saglibene, the executive director of the Nevada and Las Vegas chapters of NORML, a supporter of the legislation, unions do not want to put their employees at risk. This is why the next step, she added, is to find out how to insert the anti-drug-testing language into these CBAs without negatively affecting the workers.