Nevada employers could be prevented from not hiring someone just because they test positive for marijuana, if a bill introduced in the Legislature Wednesday becomes law.
Assemblywoman Dina Neal, who is sponsoring the bill along with her fellow Democrats, Assemblymen William McCurdy and Edgar Flores, said it doesn’t make sense for jobs to omit people from participating in what the state now deems a legal activity. “It shouldn’t be a disqualifier in offering employment,” she said. “We know marijuana stays in the system for 30 days. So if you drug test someone (after smoking earlier in the month), you’re saying they are no longer eligible for a position they could have legally done 25 days ago?”
Ever since Nevada legalized recreational marijuana use, generating more than $400 million from sales, the state has been playing catch-up on corresponding issues such as how to treat past marijuana-related criminal convictions or where people can smoke.
Assembly Bill 132 is one of a handful of marijuana bills to be considered in the 2019 legislative session. “(Assemblyman) McCurdy is bringing back his bill that was vetoed last session regarding vacating past marijuana sentences,” Neal said. “If his bill moves forward, if this bill moves forward, we will be creating a form of equity.”
An estimated 20 percent of people live in states that have legalized marijuana. Yet, many of them still face obstacles to obtaining, or keeping, employment because of marijuana consumption done in private.
In states that have legalized pot, some companies have relaxed or even removed marijuana from employment drug tests. Caesars Entertainment, for example, last year eliminated marijuana screening for prospective applicants.
According to the American Bar Association, there has been an increased number of legal challenges to drug testing policies and multiple courts have ruled against companies who have denied employment because of a positive test.
Nine states offer some sort of protection to prevent medical marijuana users from employment discrimination. Other states, such as Massachusetts, are mulling over legislation that would prevent workers from losing their jobs because of private marijuana use — as long as they don’t show up to work under the influence, similar to alcohol use.
If AB132 passes, the bill still wouldn’t address employers who fire existing workers who test positive for marijuana use — an issue that is currently being debated in Nevada courts after Sunrise Hospital fired a nurse who started using marijuana medicinally following a workplace accident, when he tested positive for the substance.
Neal said legislation to address drug testing during employment would be a slippery slope. “Then you’re getting into how a business runs their business and the requirements to perform certain duties,” she said.
For years, pre-employment drug testing has kept job seekers who use cannabis from pursuing jobs that require pre-screening, or relegated them to attempting to cheat the system through a variety of fake bodily fluids and hair potions on the market.