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legalization | 12.04.2019

Will This New Law Protect Recreational Cannabis Users From Getting Fired?

The Oregon initiative aims to protect employees from losing their jobs over recreational cannabis use that takes place outside of the workplace.

A bill recently filed in the Oregon state legislature aims to protect employees from losing their jobs over recreational cannabis use that takes place outside of the workplace, extending an already-existing law that protects users of tobacco.

The Bill

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The measure – known as Senate Bill 301 – looks to make it illegal for a company to ban the recreational use of a tobacco-related substance that remains legal throughout the state.

As the text of the bill reads,

It is unlawful employment practice for any employer to require, as a condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from using [lawful tobacco products] a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state during nonworking hours.

The use of recreational cannabis has been legal in Oregon since 2012 when the state’s voters passed a ballot initiative allowed for use of the substance.

Since then, however, prospective cannabis consumers have lamented that the otherwise legal use of the substance could land them in trouble if their employers were to ever learn of their use.

According to Jesse Soto, the proprietor of the Oregon-based dispensary Terpene Station, the prospect of employers knowing of their employees’ recreational cannabis use is a real consideration for prospective customers. Soto says,

A lot of people were very concerned about the information of them being in one of these shops getting back to their employers… If it isn’t affecting their overall job performance, I don’t see why that shoiuld be an offense that is worth being fired over.


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While the bill does seek to allow for the home use of cannabis without any repercussions from individuals’ employers, it also makes clear that there are certain standards that must still be upheld.

For one thing, the bill spells out that recreational cannabis use outside of the workplace would not be allowed in cases in which sobriety is a “bona fide occupational requirement.” This would pertain to such professions as the military, in which cannabis use is prohibited anyway.

Another provision makes clear that recreational cannabis use should still have no effect on the performance of the worker. This certainly makes sense in professions – think airline pilot or a director of traffic – in which sobriety is central to the ability to carry out the job.

That is the viewpoint of Sen. Ted Ferrioli, an Oregon state lawmaker who sits on the committee in the legislature that will be reviewing the measure. According to Ferrioli, several professions will likely be seeking exemptions to the law on the grounds that they are drug-free workplaces.”

The legislative session for the state legislature begins Wednesday.

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