Cannabis Activists Want to Change Employer and Newborn Drug Testing

Marijuana is still a hot topic at the State Capitol.
Marijuana is still a hot topic at the State Capitol.
Jacqueline Collins
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Numerous cannabis advocacy groups are ready to flex their muscles at the State Capitol today, January 23, with a goal of reforming state drug-testing policies.

Led by the Colorado and Denver chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, many pot supporters will be there all day in the hopes of meeting with elected officials. According to Colorado NORML director Ashley Weber, they're looking for a lawmaker to sponsor legislation that would change employer drug testing in Colorado from relying on blood or body-fluid draws to impairment tests.

The language was shopped around by Denver NORML (a separate chapter) during the 2018 legislative session, but failed to find a sponsor. However, Weber thinks that a new, bluer round of state legislators after the 2018 election bodes well for a second try.

"We already have the language written out, so with the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, we're confident we can get it passed," she says. "Hopefully, we can get in their ears."

Weber says that people regularly reach out to NORML about failing drug tests at work after they've taken hemp-derived CBD, which is supposed to contain less than 0.3 percent THC — an amount that should be too minuscule to trip a drug test. 

One theory is that the body's metabolism converts CBD into THC, while another proposes that the small amounts of THC in CBD products stores in your fat cells over time, potentially causing "false negatives" for employees, Weber says. "We're still unsure of the science as to why," she adds, "but it's happening."

Advocates also want to talk with lawmakers about drug testing on newborns, specifically current state laws that consider mothers child abusers if their infants test positive for THC. "Mothers who are medical patients are being charged for child abuse, which isn't fair. We want to change that code," she explains.

Medical studies about the effects of cannabis use on unborn children are limited, but the controversy isn't. Weber hopes that further education and dialogue with politicians can change that: "It's about getting to know your representatives, and writing them daily if something's important. Make appointments, become an acquaintance with them."

Other organizations participating in the lobbying day include the Cannabis Consumers Coalition, Colorado for Safe Access, the CannAbility Foundation, Sovine Consulting and the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council.

The groups will help teach participants how to lobby for legislation during two bill hearings today: for HB 1031, a bill that would allow child medical marijuana patients to have more than one primary caregiver; and HB 1028, which would add autism to the state's list of qualifiable medical marijuana conditions.

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