The mayor of Washington, D.C. has set new local guidelines for employees’ marijuana use — including the revelation that most city workers can consume as much cannabis as they want off the clock.
According to the memo first reported on by DCist, the district’s goal is to update and clarify the government’s rules for cannabis consumption and covers how to explain those rules to employees.
That’s because, according to language used by the Office of the Mayor, the D.C. government wants to “allow employees maximum freedom to use cannabis in ways that are legal under District law.” Of course, there are restrictions for district workers who operate heavy machinery, or workers whose cannabis use could put anyone in danger, impair their productivity or impact members of the public and clients they are serving.
Many states with cannabis legalization have allowed their employees the freedom to smoke cannabis off the clock, but D.C. workers have been confused, telling the DCist they were told they’d be fired for consuming medical marijuana.
In the memo, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also suggested that agencies not directly under her control should adopt the new guidelines for their rulemaking process about cannabis use policies, because the mayor wants to make sure that the process is fair and employees are as well informed as possible.
“The District government values its employees and understands there is a large cost to employees and agencies when employees lose their jobs due to positive drugs test,” the memo read. “The District government believes in progressive discipline for all but the most serious offenses.”
Also, the mayor’s office noted this is not an endorsement for consuming cannabis as a healthy activity, just like it doesn’t endorse consuming tobacco and alcohol. Local officials recognize “there is a sphere of personal freedom for adult employees, who are allowed under district law to possess cannabis.”
The memo also discussed medical marijuana and went into detail about people medicating on the clock. It said since the city provides leave to its employees, anyone with a condition that may require them to use medical cannabis on the clock should take some kind of leave “with the approval of their supervisors, rather than be impaired by cannabis during a shift.” It also said that just having a medical marijuana card is not a reason for an agency to take any employment action against the employee.
All employees will fall into three categories: safety-sensitive, protection-sensitive and security-sensitive.
Safety-sensitive employees will be subject to pre-employment drug and alcohol testing. They’ll also be the only city employees, under the mayor’s authority, subject to random drug testing because the people in those jobs could cause permanent physical injury or loss of life if they’re under the influence of anything.
Protection-sensitive employees will be subject to pre-employment testing, but no random screenings. These are the kinds of jobs that come with responsibilities, like nurses who care for patients and teachers looking after children.
If someone comes in for a pre-employment drug test and discloses they have recently used cannabis, the director can postpone the drug test, but isn’t required to do so. Also, anyone that has previously applied for a job with the D.C. government but failed the pre-employment drug test for cannabis is welcome to reapply for jobs, but they’re not entitled to the positions and pay they previously missed out on due to the failed test.
Security-sensitive and all other employees left will be subject to drug and alcohol testing if there is reasonable suspicion that they are impaired on the clock. Those employees would also be subject to testing after accidents or other incidents.
The city’s agencies will designate each of its positions by Oct. 30 this year, and annually thereafter by Sept. 30.
The mayor gave specific orders that the agencies are not to designate every position automatically as safety-sensitive. They’ve been told evaluate each of the positions individually. The mayor said agencies should take into account things like whether someone will carry a gun, if they will work with the sick, kids, or vulnerable communities, if they drive, and if they work in a facility or residence where contraband including cannabis is prohibited.
TELL US, does your job let you smoke cannabis off the clock?