Rantz: Washington Democrats to force businesses to hire potheads

Feb 26, 2023, 3:21 PM | Updated: Feb 27, 2023, 10:24 am
Pot smoker...
Pot smoker would become a non-issue if democrats had their way. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Washington Democrats are trying to force employers to hire or retain potheads with new legislation. It unnecessarily meddles in the employment practices of businesses with reason to say no to weed smokers.

SB 5123 bans discrimination against employees for off-hours marijuana use. Further, it bars pre-employment drug tests when it comes to marijuana, though it may still test for other drugs. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), argues to “The Seattle Times” that “This is simply opening the front door of getting into a job. Because too many people who see that they have to take a drug test to even apply, don’t even apply.” In Washington, pot use is legal.

There are some exceptions to the ban that allows employers to test for weed, which is the best reason to object to this entire bill. Whether or not one approves of marijuana consumption is irrelevant. Employers should decide if a pothead is suitable for their place of business. 

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Compelled hiring of potheads

If the legislation becomes law, it would not apply to job applicants in the airline or aerospace industries, or those seeking a position that requires a federal government background investigation or security clearance. After a Republican amendment was added, it would also not apply to jobs where any impairment could lead to a “substantial risk of death.”

Why offer any exceptions — outside of federal limitations outside the scope of Washington law — to any industry? Presumably it’s because possible impairment, even a day after pot consumption, isn’t worth the risk if you’re flying a plane or hanging from a 40-story building washing windows. It could put the worker or others at higher risk of injury or death.

They admit that pot use, even when it’s in your system a week after smoking, is a safety issue. So why can’t an employer use that same argument against hiring someone who may be prone to more mistakes from being high all the time?

Why hire someone who lacks motivation from the constant use of weed? They may not kill anyone from the residual effects of weed consumption when serving as a legal assistant, barista, mechanic, or masseur. But they may not be performing their best when they’re spending all their off-time getting high.

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Destigmatizing weed use

Democrats are the party of destigmatizing addiction. They’re hoping to force a cultural shift in how society views marijuana, especially because it’s legal to purchase in Washington state. Most notably (and embarrassingly), former Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes was open about his weed consumption.

On the day sales became legal, Holmes made a purchase from a pot shop, proudly telling the media that he did it “to personally exercise that new freedom.” He also brought weed to his office, in violation of the drug-free workforce policy, leading to an apology. 

There’s been a poor attempt by marijuana advocates to normalize its use by comparing it to casual alcohol consumption. During a committee hearing, Cannabis Alliance executive director Burl Bryson complained that applicants can smoke weed on a weekend before a test “and still test positive for weeks later.” He argued, “If the same approach were applied to alcohol, employers would refuse employment to anyone who enjoyed a beer or glass of wine on the weekend.”

But that’s not the case. It is obviously true that alcohol is in and out of their system within hours. But if a considerable amount was in the system for a test it indicates the person is drunk. Would you hire a drunk? For that matter, would you hire someone you knew to be an alcoholic? Probably not. So why should you hire someone you know to be a pothead?

The right to employ someone you’re proud of

Democrat lawmakers and their staff may love toking up, but an employer should maintain reasonable control over who it associates with. And it’s reasonable to want little to do with a pothead.

Smoking weed is a choice and with all choices, there are consequences. Many employers won’t hire someone with a giant face tattoo or a green mohawk, especially in corporate or managerial positions. They’re not taken seriously and presumed to not be capable of doing the job.

Is that fair? Certainly not in all cases but societally, that’s how these people are viewed. And it’s certainly fair to question the judgment of their choices. Democrats and Republicans alike constantly judge people’s decisions, down from what a coworker orders during a lunch meeting (a vodka soda in the middle of the day? really?) to what one wears to a job interview (sandals? yeah you’re being judged harshly). 

Let employers decide

Occasional marijuana use is likely fine for most employers. I can’t imagine personally disqualifying someone who smokes every once and a while. But I wouldn’t want to associate with a pothead who rushes home after the day because he or she is dependent on any recreational drug, either professionally or personally. 

Drug tests can tell if substances detected indicate residual versus recent or frequent use. But Democrats are wrong to meddle in employment decisions that could trick a hiring manager into selecting an irresponsible, accident-prone pothead for a job. And if they simply don’t want to associate with pot users of any kind, it’s not for the government to interfere any more than they would on behalf of the dude with the face tattoo or the loser with the green mohawk. 

The bill doesn’t even prevent employers from maintaining a drug-free workplace that includes marijuana. This legislation wants a business to rethink their distrust for marijuana enthusiast employees; they’ll test a model employee at random and find out he or she has a small amount of THC in their system and then they’ll change the way they view the drug. 

The bill passed the Senate mostly along party lines. It now heads to the House for consideration.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Washington Democrats to force businesses to hire potheads