how is it legal or acceptable to discriminate against someone for using a legal substance?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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how is it legal or acceptable to discriminate against someone for using a legal substance?

I was offered a job at Amazon, but before I can accept the offer they insisted
upon a surprise drug test. They specifically singled out cannabis, saying ‘even
though it’s legal here it’s not allowed at Amazon’. Here’s the thing I
understand a company having any kind of policy, including not allowing cannabis
once you’re an employee….but how can they deny someone a job or hold it against
them for using cannabis BEFORE they were an employee? How can they discriminate
on the basis of using a legal substance? Furthermore, are there ANY other legal
substances that can be held against you when it comes to employment? How is this
legal at all? How is it not discrimination? This seems to be the text book
definition of discrimination. Cannabis is 100 legal in Washington, so how can it
be held against you BEFORE you are an employee?

Asked on February 8, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Legally actionable discrimination has to do with a person's being a member of a "protected class". Things that are considered for inclusion in such a class are: race, religion, national origin, age (over 40), disability, etc. Being a cannibis user does not qualify. Accordingly, your company can set such a policy much as it sees fit. This is no different than requiring that a worker be "nicotine free", another legal substance. Therefore, unless this policy violates the terms of a union agreement or employment policy, you have no claim here.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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