Massachusetts Senator To Introduce Legislation Protecting Workers From Being Fired For Off-Hours Marijuana Use

Employees in Massachusetts can be fired for off-hours cannabis consumption, even though the substances is legal for adult use. Senator Jason Lewis (D) hopes to change that.

Lewis will be introducing legislation next month that would prevent employers for firing workers who choose to partake in cannabis on their own time. Employers will still have the power to fire or reprimand individuals who are high on the job, and companies with federal contracts would be allowed to more strictly police their employees.

"This is not intended to be a blanket protection for people to use cannabis whenever and wherever they like," Lewis told The Boston Globe. "But as long as they're not impaired and it’s not impacting their work, employers should not be able to discriminate against them in hiring or promotion, and companies certainly should not be terminating people simply because they legally use marijuana on their own time."

Lewis says he was inspired to draft the legislation by the story of Bernadette Coughlin, who was fired from her job with Sodexo when she failed a drug test after she took a fall and broke two bones while on the job. She insists she was not impaired while at work, but instead failed the drug test because she would sometimes consume cannabis before going to bed. Coughlin plans to testify in support of thge legislation when it goes to the State House.

"I really would hope that whether they're for or against or skeptical of marijuana legalization, [political leaders] would actually just listen to my story," Coughlin said. "If they really took it in, they'd understand why I'm fighting to keep this from happening to anybody else."

Massachusetts already have laws protecting medical marijuana patients and if Lewis' new bill is passed Massachusetts would join states like Maine which have previously enacted recreational cannabis rights protections for employees.

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Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) isn't the most vocal cannabis advocate on the 2020 presidential campaign trail, but you shouldn't take that as a lack of support for marijuana legalization. Unlike many of the top contenders for the upcoming Democratic primaries, Ryan hasn't filed any of his own cannabis legalization bills.

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