It is legal in Oregon for anyone 21 and over to consume marijuana, yet laws still remain that discriminate against cannabis consumers. One existing law based on an Oregon Supreme Court decision gives employers the right to fire and refuse to hire individuals who test positive or admit to using cannabis, even if they have a medical prescription.
A recently filed bill, SB 301, aims to protect both medical and recreational consumers of cannabis from employer discrimination. The bill would make it unlawful for employers to fire or not hire individuals who use any state-legal substance during nonworking hours.
Portland attorney, Beth Creighton, argues that “The voters in the state of Oregon have decided that marijuana is legal, so you shouldn’t be fired for something that’s legal.” It’s only common sense, right? Washington State, which has been a recreational state for two years longer than Oregon, just filed a similar bill that would protect medical marijuana consumers only. It’s unfair to citizens of legal states to risk losing their jobs to partake in a substance that is legal within their state’s borders.
Tobacco users currently have employment protections stipulating that as long as consumption doesn’t interfere with work duties, it is illegal to fire an individual for smoking cigarettes. “Senate Bill 301 takes the same protections tobacco smokers have and extends them to marijuana users,” says Attorney Leland Berger, Chair of the Portland NORML Legislative Committee. In an interview with KPTV, Berger said this bill isn’t only about unfair employment practices, but also a stigma he hopes to end.
Lizzy Acker from The Oregonian reports, “Since the legalization of cannabis in Oregon, some people say they have been fired for off-duty use. In May of 2015, Cyd Maurer, 25, a morning weekend anchor at Eugene’s ABC affiliate, said she was fired for failing a drug test after getting into a minor fender-bender while on assignment for KEZI.” Maurer stated that she was not under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident.
It’s important to mention that if Oregon’s Senate Bill 301 is passed, it would not prevent drug testing which could still be used as a means of termination if that individual is found to be impaired on the job. The tricky thing with marijuana is that a drug test will not tell you whether or not the individual consumed cannabis while at work, during personal time, or even weeks earlier.
The bill’s protections will not extend to all jobs, people working as air traffic controllers or commercial truck drivers will still be required to abstain from cannabis.
Senate Bill 301 can be viewed here.