City government

DC passes law prohibiting companies from firing workers for marijuana use

Placeholder while loading article actions

Private DC businesses won’t be allowed to fire workers who test positive for marijuana, under a law passed Tuesday by the DC Council now heading to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s office ( D) for his signature.

Recreational marijuana use has been legal in the district since a ballot initiative in 2014, and council members said they believe no worker should be fired for using a legal substance.

The new law, however, provides exceptions for workers in “safety-sensitive jobs,” including heavy machinery operators, construction workers, police and security guards who carry weapons, and medical professionals. While the district has already created protections for city employees who use marijuana, the district government cannot prohibit the federal government from sanctioning federal employees for marijuana use.

The council noted a report from US addiction centers that government jobs were most likely to require drug testing from workers, which would likely lessen the impact of the legislationwhich was introduced by Council Member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8).

Still, council members said local law would protect some workers, especially people of color. They pointed to a 2013 Yale study that found 63% of black workers have jobs that perform drug testing, compared to 46% of white workers.

At Tuesday’s legislative meeting, the council also wrangled over where to draw the boundaries of DC’s most micro level of local governance, the Neighborhood Advisory Boards, which are to be reviewed once a decade.

Residents of Cleveland Park had opposed a plan to split their neighborhood into two commissions. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) called a recent meeting attended by more than 100 residents who mostly opposed the proposed map, and Mendelson tried to introduce a new map on Tuesday that would have included good number of requests from these participants.

But Ward 3 council member Mary M. Cheh (D), who represents the area, and Elissa Silverman (I), who chaired the redistricting committee, fiercely opposed Mendelson’s review of the redistricting committee. map, which was developed over months of community meetings. Cheh called Mendelson’s actions “authoritarian and fundamentally undemocratic.”

Mendelson argued that the tight schedule between the delay of the 2020 census and the redistricting process left him little choice but to get involved, with only days to change the boundaries. “It brings criticism on the board to say it’s at the last minute, as if there’s another possibility,” he said.

The council sided with Cheh and Silverman, voting 10 to 3 in favor of their suggestion for the ward boundaries of Ward 3.