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Bill wants to remove pot from pre-employment, random tests

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Senate vice president Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) has pre-filed a bill that would—with certain exceptions—remove marijuana from all pre-employment and random testing required by government employers and the Office of Personnel Management.

Hofschneider stated that the enactment of Public Law 20-66—the “Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018”—authorized the personal, medicinal, and commercial use of cannabis or marijuana in the CNMI. Yet that same law did not change or amend the drug testing policies of the CNMI government, he added.

Currently, government hiring policies still includes testing for marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols in a person’s system as a condition of employment, he said. His pre-filed bill seeks to insert a new section for drug testing for marijuana. The bill states that “except as otherwise provided in subsection (b), marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols shall be excluded from all pre-employment testing for prospective employees or applicants and random testing for current employees by all government employers and the Office of Personnel Management.”

As for the exceptions, the bill states that it shall not apply to pre-employment and random drug testing for those applying to become enforcement officers, firefighters, first responders, employees in safety sensitive positions, and federally funded employees.

Hofchneider said P.L. 20-66 also did not address whether government employers may prohibit employees or applicants from engaging in off-duty legalized marijuana use.

Hofschneider said the public law intended to regulate the use of marijuana similarly to the use of alcohol. “This should include the use of alcohol and marijuana at the workplace,” he said.

The senator said government employers do not prohibit employees or applicants from engaging in off-duty legalized alcohol use. “Such employers should do the same for marijuana use,” he said.

Hofschneider said all CNMI employers have adopted an alcohol- and drug-free workplace policy that prohibits the use or possession of alcohol or illegal drugs as well as prohibits employees from being under the influence of alcohol and drugs in the workplace.

These policies, he said, provide for alcohol and drug testing as a condition of employment.

However, the senator said, alcohol is not included in the pre-employment testing for prospective employees or applicants and random testing for current employees.

Therefore, Hofschneider said, marijuana or THC, which is no longer an illegal drug under CNMI law, should not be included in the pre-employment testing for prospective employees and random testing for current employees except for certain employees including enforcement officers, firefighters, first responders, employees in safety sensitive positions, and federally funded employees.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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