Washington Law to Protect Marijuana Users From Hiring Discrimination to Take Effect in 2024

July 11, 2023

Jobseekers in Washington will soon receive protection from discrimination for recreational marijuana usage. Signed into law on May 9, 2023, Senate Bill 5123 will take effect on January 1, 2024. As such, these protections would prevent employers from rejecting applications for their off-duty marijuana use.

Under this bill, employers cannot reject a job applicant solely due to learning that they used cannabis outside the workplace. Examples provided by the bill include discovering the use through social media, referral, or pre-employment testing. It also detailed specifics on these bans, such as the pre-employment drug tests that reveal marijuana usage. According to the bill, employers cannot reject applicants based on tests that discover non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in the job applicant’s hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids.

However, this new law has exceptions for certain positions. The bill included examples such as law enforcement agencies, airlines, fire departments, corrections, and other first responders. It also provided exemptions for jobs where “impairment while working presents a substantial risk of death.” Employers must notify job seekers of such cases before interested parties apply.

Similarly, it does not protect applicants for positions where a state or federal law requires a federal background check, security clearance, or testing for controlled substances. The bill also specified employment for commercial drivers or airline pilots.

Affected parties should understand that SB 5123 specifically concerns cannabis. As such, employers can continue testing and rejecting applications for using other recreational drugs. It also applies only to pre-employment decision-making. This limitation allows employers to maintain a drug-free workplace, including marijuana. As a result, employers can test current employees for marijuana and other drugs with reasonable suspicions of impairment. They may also test after an on-the-job accident.

Thanks to this new law, recreational marijuana users will have less to fear when applying for work. Recreational cannabis users may experience greater job opportunities thanks to the new law, which takes effect on January 1, 2024, and the state’s existing marijuana expungement law that took effect in 2019. Before SB 5123 takes effect, job seekers should consider performing a self-background check. Self-checks can inform you of errors, allowing you to dispute and correct them before potential employers see them.

Try running a self background check today and give yourself a head start on your next job opportunity.