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Bill to remove cannabis from pre-employment test

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SENATE Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider earlier this month prefiled a bill that would remove marijuana or THC from all pre-employment and random tests conducted by government employers and the Office of Personnel Management with certain exceptions.

Citing Public Law 20-66, or the “Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018,” which authorized personal, medicinal, and commercial use of cannabis in the CNMI, Senate Bill 21-74 states that the law did not change or amend the CNMI government’s drug-testing policies. 

Moreover, the law does not address whether government employers may prohibit employees or applicants from engaging in off-duty legalized marijuana use.

The bill finds similarities between laws intended to regulate the use of marijuana and the use of alcohol.

“This should include the use of alcohol and marijuana at the workplace,” the bill added.

S.B. 21-74 states that government employers do not prohibit employees or applicants from engaging in off-duty legalized alcohol consumption, and this should apply to marijuana use as well.

All CNMI employers enforce an alcohol- and drug-free workplace policy that prohibits the use or possession of alcohol or illegal drugs, and also prohibits employees from being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs at the workplace.

However, alcohol is not included in the pre-employment testing for prospective employees or applicants and random testing for current employees, the proposed bill notes.

According to the bill, [since] the argument has been made that because marijuana or THC is no longer an illegal drug under CNMI law, then it should not be included in pre-employment testing for prospective employees, as well as random testing for current employees.

Law enforcement officers, firefighters, first responders, employees in safety sensitive positions, and federally funded employees are exempt from these requirements.

But the bill states that employees should still be subject to reasonable suspicion testing and post-accident testing to comply with the alcohol- and drug-free workplace policy in place.

It added that employers have an obligation to provide a safe work environment and to protect all of its employees from other employees who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when at work.

The bill notes that other U.S. jurisdictions such as Maine, Nevada, New York City, and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana in their state and enacted laws prohibiting pre-employment testing for marijuana.

“There are several other state legislatures reviewing similar legislation to limit or prohibit pre-employment testing for marijuana,” the bill stated.

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