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Hawaii Bill Would Protect Workers Allowed To Use Medical Pot

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Some workers in Hawaii who test positive for marijuana during drug tests would no longer face punishment if they hold a prescription for cannabis under a legislative proposal.

The measure would protect employees from being fired or from hiring discrimination as a state-approved medical cannabis cardholder under certain conditions, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Saturday.

“Medical cannabis patients face significant stigma due to longstanding misperceptions regarding cannabis and its uses, fueled by a longstanding, costly ‘war on drugs’ that is disproportionately waged against those impacted by social detriments of health,” officials with the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii said in a written testimony.

The legislation specifies that employers would be allowed to use a fit-for-duty test as a tool for medical cannabis users in potentially dangerous jobs.

It excludes law enforcement and corrections officers, firefighters, water safety officers, emergency medical workers and any health care worker who might administer drugs to patients. Also excluded would be any employees who work with children, seniors or other vulnerable populations, employees who operate heavy equipment and most truck employees or drivers.

The state Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee and the state Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill Friday with some amendments.

State senators heard similar legislative proposals last year but they didn't move forward.

The state Department of Public Safety, which operates the state prison system, opposed the measure, arguing cannabis is illegal under federal law and prohibits anyone who uses marijuana from possessing firearms or ammunition.

Some employers, including the shipping company Matson, also raised concerns about liability if their employees use marijuana and work at a potentially dangerous job.

“Matson’s operations involve the use of heavy machinery, which if used incorrectly or under the influence of an intoxicant can cause death or serious bodily injury,” company officials said, adding that the company still maintains a strict on- and off-duty zero-tolerance cannabis policy.

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