Michigan's Progressive Cannabis Employment Policy Takes Effect on October 1st

September 26th, 2023 Legislation & Policy Updates Ryan Spegal
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Michigan has taken a progressive step towards aligning its employment policies with the changing landscape of cannabis legalization in the United States. Starting Sunday, October 1st, a majority of state job applicants will no longer be subjected to pre-employment cannabis screening, similar to the state's approach to alcohol testing. However, positions associated with law enforcement, healthcare, and driving will still necessitate cannabis tests.

The pivotal decision was made in July when the Michigan Civil Service Commission unanimously approved this significant policy change. Previously, applicants who tested positive for cannabis were ineligible for state jobs for a minimum of three years. With the revised policy, such applicants can reapply for state positions without any waiting period.

Commission Chair Jose Bolger emphasized that despite this reform, maintaining workplace sobriety is paramount. "Employees must remain sober from both alcohol and cannabis during working hours. If there are suspicions of impairment, further tests might be conducted," stated Bolger. Consequently, state jobs are now distinctly categorized as test-designated or non-designated.

Paul Armentano, NORML’s Deputy Director, who had provided testimony to the Commission, welcomed the change. "Mandatory urine tests for past cannabis use are invasive, discriminatory, and don't necessarily lead to a safer workplace. These tests aren’t effective in identifying individuals currently under the influence," he highlighted.

Michigan's progressive move mirrors a broader national trend, with multiple U.S. jurisdictions amending their workplace policies to protect the rights of cannabis users. States such as Nevada, Washington, Connecticut, and others have already adopted similar reforms. Notably, California is set to enact its policy change on January 1, 2024.

Furthermore, last Wednesday marked a significant advancement at the federal level. The U.S. House of Representatives' Oversight and Accountability Committee voted favorably on H.R. 5040: The Cannabis Users’ Restoration of Eligibility (CURE) Act. This legislation aims to enhance employment opportunities for individuals with a history of past cannabis use.

Armentano, while applauding these legislative strides, also pointed out the outdated nature of some existing policies. "Suspicionless marijuana testing in workplaces, particularly pre-employment screening, is not evidence-based. It's a relic from the 1980s 'war on drugs.' With changing public perceptions and legal shifts, it's high time workplace policies reflect this new reality, without penalizing employees for off-hours activities that don’t compromise workplace safety," he concluded.

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