Marijuana Protections in Washington DC and Washington State

Washington DC’s Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 (CEPAA)

Signed into law last year, Washington DC’s Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 (CEPAA) is set to take effect on July 13, 2023. Pursuant to the CEPAA, a DC employer may not refuse to hire, terminate from employment, suspend, fail to promote, demote, or penalize an individual based upon:

  • the individual’s use of cannabis;
  • the individual’s status as a medical cannabis program patient; or
  • the presence of cannabinoid metabolites in the individual’s bodily fluids in an employer-required or requested drug test without additional factors indicating impairment.

The CEPAA’s employee protections do not apply, however, in the following scenarios:

  • the employee is in a position designated as safety sensitive;
  • the employer’s actions are required by federal statute, federal regulations, or a federal contract or funding agreement;
  • the employee used, consumed, possessed, stored, delivered, transferred, displayed, transported, sold, purchased, or grew cannabis at the employee’s place of employment, while performing work for the employer, or during the employee’s hours of work (unless otherwise permitted under DC law); or
  • the employee is impaired by the use of cannabis, meaning the employee manifests specific articulable symptoms while working, or during the employee’s hours of work, that substantially decrease or lessen the employee’s performance of the duties or tasks of the employee’s job position, or interfere with an employer’s obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace as required by DC or federal occupational safety and health law.

Please note that employers must provide notice to their employees of the new protections within 60 days of July 13 or upon hire.

New Washington Law Protects Applicants from Discrimination for Off-Duty Marijuana Use

The Washington state legislature recently passed a new law that will prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants based on the person’s lawful use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace. Specifically, employers are prohibited from discriminating against a person in the initial hiring for employment if the discrimination is based upon either:

  • the use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace; or
  • on a drug screening test that has found the person to have nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids.

Employers may still maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace under the new law. Notably, the law’s restrictions do not apply to the following positions:

  • a position requiring a federal government background investigation or security clearance;
  • a position with a general authority Washington law enforcement agency;
  • a position with a fire department, fire protection district, or regional fire protection service authority;
  • a position as a first responder;
  • a position as a corrections officer;
  • a position in the airline or aerospace industries; or 
  • a safety sensitive position for which impairment while working presents a substantial risk of death.

Washington employers should update their drug and alcohol testing policies and hiring materials to ensure compliance with the new law. 

The law goes into effect on January 1, 2024.