February 12, 2016

Cannabis Legalization Bill Raises Concerns over Current Drug Testing Laws

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Damien Leonard proposes amendments to change existing drug testing laws before the Senate Committee of Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs

Montpelier (Feb 10) – The Senate Committee of Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs heard more testimony this week that raised more concerns regarding workplace safety and current drug testing laws in Vermont. “This bill is not a fair treatment of the business community,” John Connor, from Connor Contracting said before the committee Wednesday morning.


Connor and many other business owners are concerned about the lack of ability to test impairment levels due to cannabis. “I think it’s ridiculous that this bill is this far along without properly vetting these issues,” Connor stressed. The discussion about workplace safety has raised awareness about Vermont’s current drug testing laws – and how much they differ from every other state. “Vermont’s drug testing laws are fundamentally different, and that cannot be ignored or cast aside,” William Driscoll, from Associated Industries of Vermont urged the committee.


In Vermont, an employer is unable to perform random drug testing, unable to terminate an employee based on a positive drug test alone, and must prove ‘reasonable cause’ to ask an employee to be tested. In dangerous industries, such as trucking and contracting, this raises concerns about liability and accidents. Jo McGuire, Chair of the Marijuana Education Committee, Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, testified over the phone and reported that some Colorado businesses are leaving the state due to the high risk of liability.


To help alleviate these concerns, Damien Leonard, legislative counsel, proposed amendment language to the bill to change some of Vermont’s existing drug testing laws. Although nowhere near finalized, some changes would be requiring only ‘reasonable suspicion’ to drug test (a much lower bar), giving employers the option to terminate after positive test, and allows employers to restric the use of cannabis by their employees.


The committee will revisit these proposed amendments with Damien Leonard Tuesday, February 16th.

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