Law Would Protect Mass. Workers From Firing Over Pot Use

BOSTON (AP/WBZ-AM) -- A proposed law in Massachusetts would bar employers from firing workers for using marijuana legally on their own time.

While recreational marijuana use is legal for adults in the state, workers can still be fired for using the drug, even if it's outside of work and its effects have worn off by the time they return to their jobs.

Under the bill filed by Democratic state Sen. Jason Lewis, employees could only be fired if they show up for work impaired.

Federal contractors would be exempted as marijuana remains illegal under U.S. law.

There is currently no reliable test for marijuana impairment and drug tests can detect traces of cannabis days or weeks after use.

'It's Just So Unfair'

The bill would make it illegal for a Massachusetts employer to do what an employer did to Bernadette Coughlin of Methuen.

Coughlin worked for the food service company Sodexo at Holy Family Hospital. She got injured on the job, was given a drug test that came back positive for marijuana, and was fired.

"Responsible adults that do something on their own time that's perfectly legal and doesn't impact their job, it just isn't right, it's so unfair," Coughlin told WBZ NewsRadio.

Coughlin later spoke with state Sen. Lewis, and she's happy to hear that his bill has been filed.

"I would hate to see this happen to somebody else," she said.

The Pot Industry Grows

It took more than two years and several delays for Massachusetts to get from a successful 2016 referendum to the first legal recreational marijuana sales in the eastern United States. The slow rollout is expected to continue into 2019 and gradually pick up steam. 

Five stores have opened so far, more than two dozen pot shops have received either final or provisional licenses from the state's Cannabis Control Commission and many other applications remain under review.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report, © Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

WBZ NewsRadio's Carl Stevens (@carlwbz) reports

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