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New law blocks Washington employers from testing for pot when hiring

By Laurel Demkovich, Washington State Standard
Published: May 15, 2023, 2:31pm

Many employers will be prohibited from discriminating against job applicants for using cannabis legally outside of the workplace, under a law Gov. Jay Inslee signed Tuesday.

The bill passed in the state House of Representatives 57-41 and the state Senate 28-21.

Recreational marijuana has been legal for adult use in Washington since 2012, and many employers in the state have already stopped testing for it. Supporters say the new law will protect people who use cannabis legally outside of work, but opponents say it could create unsafe workplaces.

Under the new law, employers can still test for other controlled substances before hiring someone. They can also continue to test for cannabis in certain situations, such as after an accident or amid suspicions of a worker being impaired while on the clock.

It also does not prevent employers from testing after employment as part of maintaining a drug and alcohol free workplace or as required under federal regulations.

Certain positions are not covered by the law. For instance, police, firemen, airline employees, corrections officers, first responders and 911 dispatchers may all still have to test for cannabis, depending on their workplace.

The new law also exempts other positions where impairment while working could present a substantial risk of death.

Employers who get federal funding or follow federal guidelines will also likely continue testing, as federal regulations still require cannabis screening for employees like truck drivers.

The bill goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.


Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: info@washingtonstatestandard.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

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