Abby Diehl uses cannabis daily to help manage pain and migraines. The cannabis she takes is recommended by a doctor legally. But even though she uses marijuana as medicine, she and others like her can’t work for the federal government.
“It’s incredible to be able to have a position in the government, and we should be encouraging our employees and the people who represent us in the government to have safe alternatives for medicine,” Diehl said.
“Why are we looking at it differently than any other medicine?” she said.
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) think it is unfair the federal government cannot employ people like Diehl, who live in states where marijuana is legal, because they cannot pass a drug test.
“I think if someone is legitimately taking medical marijuana prescribed to them by their physician, that they shouldn’t be discriminated against for that and they shouldn’t be barred from federal employment,” Crist said.
That is why he introduced a bill that would eliminate testing positive for marijuana as a reason not to hire or fire federal employees in states where the drug is legal both medically and recreationally.
Crist also kept in mind veterans when writing the bill.
“Literally these are people who are willing to lose their lives to protect our freedom and our safety, and so it impacts a lot of veterans in many of our states. The utilization of medical marijuana can solve a lot of medical problems for veterans and other citizens as well. So, to reach out to them to give them the opportunity to have federal employment is equally important if not more so,” Crist said.
While Crist and cannabis users want the drug test to be eliminated, employee screening consultant Nina French from Current Consultant Group says it could be damaging to employers and businesses.
“To eliminate it sort of a rash decision for a number of reasons,” French said. “You’re going to see higher turnaround from jobs, you’re going to see higher accidents, higher workers compensation they are going to see tardiness and all things that we know are an issue with alcohol or drugs in the workplace.”
About two-thirds of states and counting have legalized medical marijuana, and over 10 have legalized the drug recreationally.
“As states are legalizing marijuana, they are not thinking through the legislation and what it means for employers and what it means to safety overall in their states,” French said.
A 2018 Pew Research Center poll found about six out of every 10 Americans think marijuana should be legal.
Nevada became the first state in June to pass a law preventing employers from rejecting workers based on pre-employment marijuana testing.