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Marijuana in the Workplace FAQ

This page provides answers to frequently asked questions about marijuana law as it relates to employment in Washington State. For more information on marijuana law, see Marijuana Regulation in Washington State.


Can employers prohibit marijuana use during work hours?

Similar to alcohol, employers may regulate use or impacts in the workplace. I-502 prohibits personal use of marijuana "in public." This means it may not be used in view of the general public.

Can employers continue to test for marijuana?

I-502 does not address the topic of drug testing but it is our understanding that employers may still conduct drug testing in accordance with their legally adopted policies. Since marijuana is illegal under federal law, institutions that receive federal funds will still be subject to testing consistent with the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act.

How does the law affect CDL holders?

Commercial Driver License (CDL) holders are regulated by DOL, which follows federal regulations. Where federal Drug-Free Workplace Act and U.S. DOT standards apply: zero tolerance for marijuana use, including medicinal use. (Unchanged)

Can employers continue to test for marijuana?

Similar to alcohol, employers may require testing, discipline for policy violations, and regulate use or impact in the workplace. Employers should make sure that their personnel policies are up to date and include legalized marijuana, and consult with their city or agency legal representative.

Is there a difference between the 5ng (nanogram) threshold and the 15ml (milliliter) threshold that urine tests from Department of Licensing (DOL) use?

Yes. 5ng is the limit set forth by the initiative as the per se level of impairment for someone under the influence of marijuana. This is measured by a blood test designed to detect "active metabolites." Studies indicate that active metabolite levels fall to approximately 2ng within 4-6 hours of use. Commercial Driver License (CDL) holders are regulated by DOL, which follows federal regulations and uses the 15ml threshold. This level is measured by a urine test.

What about off-duty marijuana consumption?

Washington public employers have a strong legal basis to discipline or discharge employees who test positive for marijuana if this action is consistent with the respective contracts, policies and past disciplinary action. However, further legislation and litigation will likely determine whether discharge for off-duty marijuana use violates public policy.

Can I still be drug tested now that marijuana is legal?

I-502 does not address the topic of drug testing but it is our understanding that employers may still conduct drug testing consistent with a previously adopted policy. Since marijuana is illegal under federal law institutions that receive federal funds will still be subject to mandated testing. Organizations such as the NFL and NBA have issued statements that marijuana consumption is a violation of their conduct policy and they intend to continue testing for it.

Does the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WLCB) drug test new employees?

The WLCB does not drug test administrative staff at the time of hiring. However, they do test potential enforcement staff for drugs, including marijuana. The WLCB is a drug-free workplace. All employees are expected to not be impaired at work. Should a reasonable suspicion arise that an employee is impaired, that person may be tested.

  • Roe v. TeleTech Customer Care Mgmt, 171 Wn.2d 736 (2011) - Plaintiff Authorized to Use marijuana medicinally under Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MUMA) had her job offer rescinded after testing positive for marijuana. Court held MUMA did not protect employees from discharge for medicinal use.
  • Drug-Free Workplace Act and U.S. Department of Transportation - Where federal Drug-Free Workplace Act and U.S. DOT standards apply: zero tolerance (unchanged)

Last Modified: August 29, 2017