Members of the Anchorage Assembly voted this week to adopt revised regulations limiting employers’ ability to test and sanction state workers for their off-the-job use of cannabis.
Under the new rules, which are set to take effect within 30 days, most non-safety sensitive employees will no longer be subject to either urine testing or other forms of drug testing that do not provide evidence of more recent (within the past eight hours) cannabis exposure. (Most safety sensitive workers, such as those with commercial driver’s licenses, are subject to federal, not local, drug testing regulations.) Further, those who fail a drug screen for cannabis exposure will no longer face immediate termination.
The legislation is “moving us into the direction where we respect people’s privacy,” said Assembly member George Martinez, who cosponsored the policy change with Assembly Chair Christopher Constant.
Although the adult-use cannabis market is legally regulated in Alaska, the state law does not provide legal protections from workplace discrimination for those who consume marijuana products at home.
“Studies consistently show that employees who consume cannabis during their off-hours are no different than their peers,” said NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Their workplace performance doesn’t differ from that of their coworkers, many of whom consume alcohol, and they do not pose an increased safety risk.”
He added: “Those who consume alcohol legally and responsibly while away from their jobs do not suffer sanctions from their employers unless their work performance is adversely impacted. Those who legally consume cannabis should be held to a similar workplace standards.”
Assembly members approved the new policy by a veto-proof majority of 9 to 3.
Earlier this month, Michigan regulators halted pre-employment marijuana screens for most public employees in non-safety sensitive positions. Lawmakers in Nevada and Washington have also adopted similar bans.
Additionally, the District of Columbia, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have amended their laws so that many employees are no longer terminated from their jobs solely because of a positive drug test for THC metabolites.
Additional information is available from the NORML Fact Sheet, ‘Marijuana Legalization and Impact on the Workplace.’