Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: May 28, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Vincent Gray


Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act of 1978 and the Department of Corrections Employee Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing Act of 1996 to prohibit the District of Columbia government from discriminating, in employment, against an individual for participation in the medical marijuana program.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employee Protection Amendment Act of 2019, and I thank Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Robert White, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau and Mary Cheh for joining me as co-introducers.

The voters of the District of Columbia approved establishment of a medical marijuana program in 1999, but due to Congressional interference, the program was not set up and running until a little less than ten years ago.

Since that time, the Council and the executive have worked to improve the program to make medical marijuana available to D.C. residents who need it.

Unfortunately, unlike a number of other jurisdictions, we never updated our laws regarding drug testing to account for the fact that D.C. government employees could be patients registered with the program.

On the positive side, the Department of Human Resources on its own implemented a policy for employees who are registered with the medical marijuana program and who test positive for marijuana in the course of the routine testing that happens for some positions.

I found this out after I began to hear complaints from constituents last year about the fact that some agencies were NOT following the DCHR policy.

While those agencies, including the Department of Corrections, have the right to set their own policies on the topic, the decision to penalize employees for seeking medicine is definitely not the right one to make.

I have tried to work with the Department of Corrections to get this fixed, including sending a letter along with several of my colleagues asking them to follow the DCHR policy.

DOC did not respond for over a month, and then claimed that they were following the policy, which is not true. While they are allowed to do routine testing for safety sensitive positions, they must also allow patients to present their medical marijuana card as explanation for positive results.

Simply put, unless there is a federal law or rule that requires it, D.C. government should not be refusing to hire, firing, or penalizing individuals for using medical marijuana, as long as they are not consuming on the job or showing up intoxicated.

Frankly it is embarrassing that it has taken us this long to take up this measure.

I hope that between this bill and the proposal from Councilmember Trayon White a few weeks ago regarding pre-employment drug testing, the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development can lead a comprehensive discussion in the city about drug testing in both the public and private sectors and come up with a common sense set of reforms to pass.