Bill in Oregon legislature would make it illegal to fire, not hire based on pot use

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After Oregon legalized marijuana, a new bill in the state legislature could prevent employers from firing - or not hiring - people because they use it.

Attorney Leland Berger said Senate Bill 301 takes the same protections tobacco smokers have and extends them to marijuana users.

“The stigma of being a cannabis consumer would, for the most part, in most businesses, would not interfere with their ability to get hired for a job or keep a job,” Berger said.

Berger runs a legal practice called the Oregon CannaBusiness Compliance Counsel, LLC, and is the Chair of the Portland NORML Legislative Committee, which backs the bill.

The proposed bill says “it is an unlawful employment practice for any employer to require, as a condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from using a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state during nonworking hours,” but also provides some exceptions.

For instance, it would not apply to employees in certain professions that are banned from using marijuana, like air traffic controllers and commercial truck drivers.

Berger said the bill isn’t only about unfair employment practices, but also a stigma he hopes to end.

“It is one of the vestiges of canna-bigotry,” he said. “And by that I mean there are laws and ordinances…that are reflective of the attitude that, as to responsible adult cannabis consumers, we just don’t like your kind.”

As far as how the bill would be reconciled with federal law, under which marijuana remains illegal, Berger said there could be legal challenges down the road but he doesn’t think those challenges would be successful.

Supporters hope to pass the bill into law during this legislative session, which begins on Wednesday.

To read the full text of the bill, visit

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