CARSON CITY — Not getting a job because of a positive test for pot could soon be a thing of the past in Nevada if a bill from a trio of Democrats becomes law.
But the push to change the way Nevada employers handle the drug and prospective employees was met with significant resistance from the business community when Assembly Bill 132 was introduced in the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor on Wednesday.
The bill would make it illegal for an employer to refuse to hire someone because a pre-employment drug screening came back positive for marijuana. The bill does not prevent employers from having policies that prohibit employees from using marijuana once hired. AB 132 would also prohibit most employers from using character assessments in their pre-employment processes, which most of those who testified against the bill also raised concerns about.
The purpose of the bill, according to Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, is to ensure “equity and fairness” for Nevadans who helped the state generate nearly $70 million in tax revenue from marijuana but risk not being hireable for doing so.
Neal, who presented the bill, said she was “completely surprised” by the amount of opposition to the proposed law. She noted that many of the arguments against it center around concerns about a current employee’s use of marijuana, which her bill does not affect.
“It is not opening up some magical fairy of marijuana usage. It is literally saying that if you are a recreational user, the employer can place conditions upon you if they hire you,” said Neal, who noted that she voted against the 2016 ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana use for those 21-and-over in the state.
Former state senator Warren Hardy, representing the Nevada Resorts Association and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Nevada as a lobbyist in opposition to AB 132, called it “the toughest issue I’ve looked at in 30 years.”
“The challenge here is balancing the rights of the employees, who now clearly have a right to use this substance, with the obligations and responsibility of the business owner, who has an obligation and responsibility to make sure their workplace is safe for both their customers and their other employees,” Hardy said.
And for some employers, like trucking and construction companies, that safety risk becomes even greater.
The Nevada Trucking Association submitted an amendment to the bill that would make an exemption to the law for the hiring of a “safety sensitive position.”
“We feel that for us it’s a safety issue,” Paul Enos, CEO of the trucking association, said of pre-employment marijuana screenings. “We do that for our protection as well as the protection of everybody else we’re sharing our roads and highways with.”
Assemblymen William McCurdy, D-Las Vegas, and Edgar Flores, D-Las Vegas, are also sponsoring the bill. The committee took no action on the bill Wednesday.