Lawmakers in the Utah House and Senate have overwhelmingly approved legislation, Senate Bill 46, protecting state employees from being sanctioned in the workplace for their off-the-job use of medical cannabis.
Members of the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 26 to 1. House members advanced the measure 68 to 4. It now awaits action from Republican Gov. Spencer Cox.
If enacted, the bill would limit state employers from taking punitive actions against employees who consume cannabis products at home in compliance with the state’s medical marijuana access law. The legislation does not extend protections to those who work for private employers, nor does it allow for employees to come to work under the influence of marijuana.
The measure also forbids judges and juries from discriminating against medical cannabis patients in the course of a judicial proceeding.
The bill’s chief sponsor said that the enactment of the bill will further clarify lawmakers’ intent to treat the medicinal use of cannabis no differently than the use of other physician-authorized medicines.
Commenting on the effort, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “While this bill is somewhat limited in scope, it is consistent with the laws of a growing number of jurisdictions that recognize that off-hours cannabis use poses no legitimate threat to either workplace safety or productivity. Tens of millions of Americans consume cannabis responsibly while in the privacy of their own homes and its serves no purpose to allow employers to unduly discriminate against them.”
Utah lawmakers enacted legislation permitting for the limited use and distribution of cannabis and cannabis products in 2018. Unlike the laws in the majority of medical marijuana access states, it did not provide any explicit workplace protections for patients.
In recent years, lawmakers in several states — such as New York and Nevada — and municipalities — such as Atlanta and Philadelphia — have passed laws limiting the ability of employers to either refuse to hire or to fire employees solely on the basis of their off-the-job consumption of cannabis.
Last month, justices on the New Hampshire state Supreme Court ruled that a private employer cannot fire a worker solely based upon a drug test failure for their medical cannabis consumption.
A summary of state-specific worker protection laws is available here from California NORML.