Feb 27, 2023 - Politics

Washington considers banning pre-employment pot tests

Illustration of a marijuana leaf shown in the negative space of many leaves.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Most employers in Washington would be banned from testing job applicants for cannabis under a bill that passed the state Senate last week.

Why it matters: Recreational pot use has been legal in Washington for more than a decade. But businesses can still deny jobs to those who test positive for using it — even though traces can show up weeks after use, when a person is no longer impaired.

  • While similar proposals have been introduced before in Washington's Legislature, they've never passed off the floor of either chamber.

What they're saying: "For people who are using a legal substance, having a pre-employment test like this is really unfair, and we should do away with that," said state Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), the bill's sponsor.

Yes, but: The measure wouldn't prevent businesses from requiring already hired workers to refrain from off-duty cannabis use. Nor would it prevent other kinds of pre-employment drug screening, such as for cocaine.

  • Pre-employment pot screening would still be allowed for federal workers or airline workers, like pilots, as well as for "safety-sensitive positions for which impairment while working presents a substantial risk of death."

What's next: The bill is headed to the state House, where a key committee chair told Axios she plans to give the measure a hearing soon.


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