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Maryland’s marijuana marketplace bill lacks worker protections, advocates say

Columbia-based cannabis business Remedy Maryland is already expanding its retail footprint to three locations.
Scott Maucione
Columbia-based cannabis business Remedy Maryland is already expanding its retail footprint to three locations.

Marijuana advocates say there is a glaring oversight in Maryland’s new bill to set up a recreational marijuana marketplace by July 1.

The bill, which regulates the distribution of business licenses, sets sales tax rates and levies fees for medical shops to convert to recreational ones, does not have a provision which protects employees in the workplace.

For example, the bill does not prohibit employers from firing workers if they test positive for marijuana, but are not actively high. And marijuana stays in the bloodstream much longer than other substances like alcohol.

“If it's legal for an adult to consume cannabis products at home, why is it therefore still appropriate that that person can lose their job the following Monday or Tuesday if they go to work, are completely sober, but continue to test positive for the presence of having used cannabis over the weekend?” queried Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, otherwise known as NORML.

Other states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have employee protections built into their laws, Armentano said.

The effects of marijuana typically last between one to six hours, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, the drug can show up with a positive result on a urine test for a month and can be detected in hair samples for up to three months.

That may make some people wary of using marijuana once it becomes legal for recreational use statewide.

The drug is still illegal on a national level, which means that any of the approximately 150,000 Marylanders working for the federal government could still face repercussions at their jobs for indulging, regardless of state law.

While the bill doesn’t have the protections now, there is still plenty of time in the legislative process to add amendments before the end of the legislative session in April.

State Senate President Bill Ferguson, who represents Baltimore City, is happy about how the bill is progressing.

“I think it has the possibility of being a national model,” Ferguson said during a press conference last week.

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
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