While Washington D.C. residents who are 21 years old and older can legally enjoy cannabis on private property, certain district employers and agencies still do not allow their employees to use marijuana.
“Legislation may change. There may be things in legislation that allow marijuana, but, that’s just for the average person,” said a Drug Free Workplace Program – a comprehensive program to address illicit drug use by federal employees – professional, who asked to remain anonymous.
The source has worked professionally in Washington, D.C. Drug Free Workplace Program agencies for more than 13 years, and emphasizes that no matter the legalization, cannabis usage is not permitted at the organization or other government agencies. “It’s legal for D.C. residents. , depending on their job, it still may not be legal,” the source told the AFRO. “If you fall under what is considered a testing designated position, then it’s not legal for you . . . Do you want a police officer, or a fire person, or someone who is in emergency response, under the influence? No. If they’re coming to your aid, you want them clear and free of any drugs.”
The D.C. government does not allow any of its employees to use marijuana even though small amounts have been declared legal by Initiative 71. The government also does not allow the possession, consumption, use, or transportation of marijuana on District government property.
“There may be a huge disaster or an emergency where you’re off duty, but you’re called into work for whatever reason. You’re not going to be able to say, ‘Hey, I was smoking marijuana so I can’t come support this tragedy.’ Like the Hurricane that happened in Texas, people from this area actually deployed there. So, it’s for the safety of the public.”
Veronica, a store manager from a CVS Pharmacy in Northeast D.C., who declined to give her last name, told the AFRO that her store tests for marijuana usage based on the type of position held. For instance, the manager said she does not consume marijuana, but had to be tested three times to get to her current position. However, she said, the requirement is not the same for all CVS employees.
“Cashiers . . . they’re not tested for marijuana, however, if you work in the pharmacy, you will have to take a drug test. So, for cashiers it’s not illegal, for pharmacy technicians, I would say it’s illegal,” she said. “Cashiers just deal with front of store, meaning they’re not touching any drugs. They don’t have the certification to really deal with medicine. The pharmacy, however, they’re dealing with drugs every day. They’re dealing with customers and handling it . . . It’s legal in D.C., but that does not mean that it’s okay with the company and that the company is not going to drug test you.”
Both women contend that marijuana should still be considered an illegal substance. “I feel that it should be illegal only because they’ve got patients that are depending on you. It’s kind of like going to work drunk. If you’re under the influence, how can you care about my health? If we’re working in a health field, why would it be okay for you to consume drugs that are illegal,” Veronica said.
Though some CVS employees can work without being tested for marijuana, the store manager said if marijuana is found in a job applicant’s system when applying, there is a specific level it cannot exceed to be considered for employment. “You can have marijuana in your system because it is legal in D.C., however your numbers cannot go over the legal limit, which they’re not going to tell you. That was something I didn’t even know until I saw it,” Veronica said. “I thought that was different, to know it is legal, so companies are accepting it for the D.C. area. They’re like, ‘Okay it’s legal, we’re going to give you some leeway,’ but you don’t know how much leeway you have.”
The women emphasized the importance of D.C. residents being careful and knowing the rules of the organization where they are employed or are applying. “If it’s a requirement for a company for you to do a drug test, a lot of people have this perception, it’s legal in the D.C. area, so I can smoke, and I can maintain my job, but every company has different policies,” the store manager said.
“I had a question posed to me by an employee who was kind of new, and is a millennial, and said, ‘I could be at a concert. Somebody may hand me a brownie. It may be an edible. That’s kind of the culture of my generation, and something like that can easily happen, and then I’m randomly drug tested, and then I lose my job.’ My advice to that person was to go and look on our website, see all the information that is there. You can learn about what you’re tested for if you’re in a testing designated position. But also, be more careful about what you’re doing, what you’re eating, what you’re having. If handing you a brownie at an event can turn into you testing positive for drugs, you may not want to grab brownies at events,” the federal worker said.
“I think the companies and agencies should do more outreach and have folks kind of understand the importance of being alert and aware, because an accidental having marijuana is not going to keep your job. That’s not going to be a good answer for you,” the federal worker said.