Nevada Law Will Protect Employees Who Use Marijuana (Guest Post)
The majority of adults in the U.S. support legal marijuana use for those over the age of 21 for medical or recreational purposes. And the law has kept stride with changes in public opinion with over half of all states now legalizing the substance for at least medical use and a growing number permitting use by anyone of legal age. However, even though a substance is legal, employers in most states still have the right to discriminate against marijuana users in pre-employment drug screenings.
The exception is the state of Nevada, which passed legislation banning the disqualification of a candidate for employment based on marijuana use. Additionally, the new law prohibits employers from firing employees who test positive for marijuana use on a screen during the first month of employment. The law takes effect next year.
What the Nevada Law Does
According to Assembly Bill No. 132, refusing to hire an employee based upon a positive screen for marijuana will be prohibited. Additionally, terminating an employee during the first 30 days of employment is prohibited without first providing the employee an opportunity to rebut the test results. The law does not apply to emergency personnel such as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, certain federal and state employees, and employees whose cannabis use, in the determination of the employer, could adversely affect the safety of others.
Routine drug tests have a miserable failure rate. Plus, savvy job seekers who used marijuana in the days long before it was legal are well versed in how to beat a standard urinalysis, the most frequently performed type of pre-employment screening. While it proves difficult to pass a hair follicle test, standard urine tests use only a single spectrum, making it easy to use a combination of diluting the urine and masking it with other substances to obtain a “clean” result.
Additionally, standard urine tests often bring up false positives on screenings due to the presence of other, legal medications. Obviously, this failing of pre-employment drug screening means companies have not hired acceptable candidates who may have made fine employees despite their cannabis use. Furthermore, employees who use other, more dangerous substances on an illicit basis may breeze through screenings.
Problems with Testing for Cannabis Versus Other Drugs
An additional problem with testing for marijuana residue is the length of time metabolites remain in a user’s system. For heavy cannabis users, metabolites may remain in the blood up to two months if they smoke or otherwise indulge daily.
This does not mean these users are necessarily impaired. The intoxicating effects of THC wear off in roughly the same amount of time it takes the body to metabolize alcohol. It simply means if a cannabis user smoked two weeks ago to relieve chronic pain, she may test positive even if she hasn’t been impaired since that time.
Compare this to the metabolic life of other, more dangerous illicit substances. Heroin clears the body within three days, as does cocaine. Meth and MDMA (ecstasy) leave the body in four days. Basically, a potential employee can shoot up heroin, snort coke, drop some MDMA, and smoke a little meth on Monday and still pass an employment drug test on Friday.
Considering the relative safety of marijuana compared to other drugs (no one has ever died of an overdose) the bias against those who prefer herbal medicine, or even recreation, becomes clear. It’s easier for a meth user to secure employment than a cannabis user, even though most managers would probably prefer to work with the latter.
Moving Forward Based on Science and Common Sense
For the majority of jobs, especially those where repetitive injuries cause chronic pain and inflammation, cannabis use poses little to no harm. Cannabis use poses far fewer problems than legal alcohol use in many workplaces. Unlike booze, waking up the morning after overindulging in marijuana does not normally result in a distracting headache and upset stomach.
Research also shows cannabis produces fewer negative health outcomes than tobacco use. Even the negative health effects of long-term tobacco use can result in lost productivity and days of work missed. Meanwhile, cannabis is essentially harmless when dosed through a means other than smoking. Even when smoked, it still has not been shown to have the same directly negative effects on our health as smoking tobacco.
As science progresses there is no doubt researchers will develop more precise measurements for marijuana intoxication. Until that day comes, however, public and private employment policy should base itself on the available evidence that points to the innocuous nature of cannabis when compared to other illicit and legal substances and use common sense in making hiring decisions.
Hopefully, someday soon, what people choose to do in their time off the clock (within reason) will no longer prohibit them from having the careers of their dreams based on faulty logic and propaganda.
June 27, 2019
This is a guest post by Kate Harveston, a freelance health and wellness writer and cannabis advocate. You can read more of Kate’s writing at her personal blog, So Well, So Woman!
Rod Kight is an attorney who represents lawful cannabis businesses. He speaks at cannabis conferences across the country, drafts and presents cannabis legislation to foreign governments, is regularly quoted on cannabis matters in the media, and maintains the Kight on Cannabis legal blog, where he discusses legal issues affecting the cannabis industry. You can contact him here.