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Marijuana in the Workplace FAQ

This page provides answers to frequently asked questions about marijuana law as it relates to local government employers and employees in Washington State.

For more information on marijuana regulation, see our page on Marijuana Regulation in Washington State.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can employers prohibit marijuana use during work hours?

Similar to alcohol, employers may regulate use or impacts of marijuana use in the workplace. RCW 69.50.445 prohibits personal use of marijuana "in public." This means it may not be used in view of the general public. In addition, employers may have workplace policies prohibiting marijuana use or being under the influence of marijuana.

Can employers continue to test for marijuana?

I-502, codified in chapter 69.50 RCW, does not address the topic of workplace drug testing. It is our understanding that employers may still conduct drug testing in accordance with their legally adopted policies. Since marijuana remains illegal under federal law, institutions that receive federal funds will still be subject to testing consistent with the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act.

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. Employers should consult with their city, agency or other legal representatives.

How does the law affect CDL holders?

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

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, to date there is no further legislation or case law on the issue of whether discharge for off-duty marijuana use violates public policy.

What about medical marijuana use in the workplace?

There is not a legal right to use medical marijuana in the workplace. An employer may have a policy that requires all new employees to have a negative drug test result even when employees are prescribed medical marijuana. See, for example, Roe v. TeleTech Customer Care Mgmt (2011). The court held the state Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MUMA) did not protect employees from discharge for medicinal use. The plaintiff was authorized to use marijuana medicinally but had her job offer rescinded after testing positive for marijuana.

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Last Modified: May 14, 2021