Climate Workers Couldn’t Be Fired Over Marijuana In Legal States Under Newly Refiled Congressional Bill

October 11, 2023 ·

People working in the climate sector would be protected from being fired for testing positive for marijuana if they’re based in a legal state under a newly refiled bill from more than 40 congressional Democrats.

The legislation, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), is titled the Climate Resilience Workforce Act. The bill itself covers substantial ground on climate policy, proposing to provide grants to support climate resilience jobs, fund existing workforce development programs and create a White House Office of Climate Resilience to facilitate climate protection work.

But one section would offer cannabis-focused employment protections, stipulating that those employed in a state that has legalized marijuana could not be denied job training opportunities made available under the bill or denied work in climate resilience “on the basis of a Federally-mandated drug test that is more stringent than any drug test that is in place in the locality or State, or used by the union of such employee.”

If a state or locality does permit for testing THC metabolites despite having legalization on the books, it seems those workers or job training applications could still be subject to the more stringent federal guidelines.

The bill also specifically talks about states and localities where the “recreational use” of cannabis “is lawful.” That may inadvertently preclude patients from obtaining the protections in jurisdictions where marijuana is only legal for medical use.

“As we see increasingly destructive wildfires, droughts, and storms, the need for a skilled workforce to prepare for and respond to climate devastation could not be more evident,” Jayapal said in a press release late last month. “My Climate Resilience Workforce Act responds to this crisis at the scale necessary. This legislation will both help us to address climate change while investing in millions of good-paying, union jobs that center the very communities who are most impacted.”

The bill was reintroduced with about 10 more cosponsors compared to last session. They include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

However, in the GOP-controlled House that is currently still lacking a speaker after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was ousted from the position, its prospects of advancing are more uncertain.

The House Rules Committee has repeatedly blocked attempts by lawmakers to end the practice of drug testing federal job applicants for marijuana as part of large-scale spending bills this session.

Over in the Senate, however, members passed defense legislation in July that contains provisions to bar intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA from denying security clearances to applicants solely due to their past marijuana use.

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee also passed a standalone bipartisan bill late last month that would prevent the denial of federal employment or security clearances based on a candidate’s past marijuana use. (Full Story)

In categories:Federal Policy Labor
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