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Federal agencies couldn't fire employees in legalized states simply because they test positive for marijuana if a bipartisan bill that was introduced in Congress on March 12, 2019, is enacted.

The legislation, filed by Reps. Charlie Crist, a Florida Democrat, and Don Young, an Alaska Republican, along with eight other co-sponsors, is designed to provide protections for federal workers who consume cannabis in compliance with state law. Under current law, federal employees can be terminated — or not even hired in the first place — over marijuana, regardless of state law.

As Crist's office noted in a bill summary obtained by Marijuana Moment, this policy has a disproportionate impact on veterans, many of whom have turned to medical cannabis to treat pain and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Military veterans represent about one-third of the federal workforce.

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The bill, titled the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act, wouldn't prohibit employers from conducting probable cause drug testing when a worker is suspected of being intoxicated on the job, and it also doesn't apply to federal employees applying for, or working in, positions that require a top-secret clearance.

Unlike the last version of the legislation, introduced by Crist during the 115th Congress, this bill extends the employment protections to people who use cannabis in accordance with policies of Indian tribes and lands under free association with the U.S.

Another difference between the two bills is that language was amended to specify that employees who test positive for THC metabolites could not be “subject to any adverse personnel action.” The word “personnel” was added, possibly because its exclusion might have been construed to inadvertently shield federal workers from criminal punishments even though cannabis remains illegal under federal law.

“I think it's an issue of fairness, and it's always been, for me, an issue also of compassion,” Crist said after he introduced the previous version of the bill last year.

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