A Colorado lawmaker has introduced a bill seeking to prevent employers from firing staff for using marijuana for recreational purposes when off the clock.

The bill is designed to fix a “glaring gap” in the statute, according to sponsor Rep. Jovan Melton, a Democrat representing Aurora. It would ensure that companies would be unable to terminate the contract of a staff member who engages in activity deemed legal under state law, even if it is illegal at a federal level.

Melton said cannabis should be treated like alcohol. “If someone’s able to drink while they’re at home and on their free time, as long as they’re not coming into work intoxicated, then they’re not penalized with their employment,” he told the Denver Post.

Colorado and Washington State were the first states in the country to legalize recreational marijuana back in 2012. Colorado has a thriving cannabis industry, but it is still tweaking the regulatory framework used to govern sales and consumption.

Rule changes for 2020 include the potential for social venues to apply for tasting room licenses, delivery services for medical marijuana, heavy metals testing, hemp sales at dispensaries and the banning of vape additives.

Random drug testing of employees is one area affected by the legal industry and the disparity between federal and state law creates an issue. THC remains in the bloodstream for up to a month after use.

Melton’s new measure will be popular among consumers, but it is likely to meet opposition among the state’s business community. Some companies want the flexibility to introduce zero-tolerance policies towards marijuana use, particularly those in the mining industries.

They would naturally oppose the bill, HB 20-1089, so it may require a compromise and some amendments if it is to pass into law.

Melton said the bill would not affect pre-employment drug screenings, and would only target random screenings for existing employees. It would also not affect federal employees or anyone subject to additional federal requirements.

He is more than happy to meet with the business community to discuss concerns, and hopes to find common ground.

The bill has been assigned to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee, but the first hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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