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NORML Launches Initiative to Protect Cannabis Users from Employer Discrimination

Private sector employers drug test for no reason - NORML is trying to fix that.

by Zach Harris

While over half of U.S. states have legalized marijuana in one form or another, be it medical or recreational, a huge number of private employers in those states still test, and subsequently fire, employees based on cannabis use.

That’s why the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has put together a multi-state coalition with a focus on ending the draconian drug testing practice. So far the coalition has representatives from California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington, with a four point plan on how to address the unfair nature of workplace drug testing.

First on the list is reforming actual policies, in which employers are generally testing urine, blood or hair, looking for trace amounts of chemical compounds. But for cannabis, which is fat soluble and stays in the body for an extended time, a positive test has no details on when or why a user smoked, ate, or vaporized cannabis.

“Even though marijuana is legal and readily available in several states, consumers are being unfairly forced to choose between their job and consuming off the clock as a result of out-of-date employment practices,” Kevin Mahmalji, National Outreach Coordinator for NORML, said.

The second point on the NORML playlist is to expand the employment opportunities that are available to admitted marijuana users. NORML hopes to help shed the stigma attached with cannabis, and highlight the fact that off-duty consumption is safer than alcohol, which is often encouraged by employers.

To further disprove the current conception of cannabis users, the coalition’s third goal is to clarify the difference between discriminatory detection testing and the more useful performance testing. While suspicionless detection testing doesn’t consider ability to actually perform at any given job, NORML recommends performance testing that uses observation instead of THC percentages, encouraging employers to actually pay attention and determine for themselves if employees are capable of performing their tasks.

“Random suspicionless drug testing of applicants or employees for past marijuana use is not just unfair and discriminatory, it’s bad for business,” Coalition spokesperson Judd Golden said.

The fourth and final point on the NORML Workforce Drug Testing Coalition agenda is to highlight off-duty employee protection laws. And while laws exist in plenty of states protecting workers from being fired for legal activities done while not on the clock, those protections have also failed to hold up in court for cannabis users.

And while employees are fired, or never hired in the first place, for using a legal substance in their states, privately owned drug testing companies rake in money hand over fist, benefitting from the unemployment of marijuana users. NORML hopes to combat this discrimination, and hopefully eliminate suspicionless testing throughout the country.


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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