Pot policies won't change for city employees

Pot policies won't change for city employees »Play Video
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- In just about a month, pot stores around the state will swing open their doors, checking IDs but not badges. That is, city badges, like the ones your local HR director, water meter readers and lifeguards hold.

So, are cities doing anything different to keep your family safe? The answer might surprise you.

This summer, when it comes to picking up a beer or a joint, Pasco, Kennewick and Richland all have the same policy.

“Nothing's changed for us," said Richland Human Resource Director Allison Jubb.

Bottom line: don't ask, don't tell and don't come to work high.

“We're keeping our same policies we've had in place for a long time,” said Jubb. “We're insuring that when employees are here, they're ready to work and they're not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol."

The Tri-Cities have strict guidelines when it comes to marijuana use and testing for only four types of employees: police, fire, dispatch and commercial licensed drivers.

“For our other employees, it would only be if they showed up to work impaired,” said Evelyn Lusignan, spokesperson for the city of Kennewick.

If they do, the cities can and will act.

“We go through the process of identifying that there is some suspicious behavior or other things that have triggered it, and then we go through a process of sending that employee in for drug or alcohol testing," Jubb said. "Nothing would change with I-502. We'll continue to follow those same procedures."

But that's the very problem, says one dad KEPR spoke to. I-502 changed everything, and the cities should change too.

“They're in charge of a larger group of people,” said Woody Hogan. “I mean, if you're flipping a burger at McDonald's, that's one thing, you can be high all you want. But if you're coming to my house and doing some public safety stuff or lifeguard or something, I want to know that you’re taking care of my kid and being sober and clear minded."

That's right: Lifeguards – the very jobs being hired right now by cities for the summer – will not be screened periodically. In fact, just like every other exempt employee, they won't even be pretested.

“You're looking after tons of kids all the time, all day long,” said mom Angela Rivera. “Being high or intoxicated, you can't react as fast; saving a life. I don't think that's right. I think they should be prescreened."

However, not everyone we spoke to felt that way. One couple said they feel the city should treat alcohol the same as marijuana, adding, if they don’t allow marijuana usage at home, “It’s like saying, 'Don’t drink at home.'”

However the cities themselves might feel about their own policies, they're bound. Fifteen years ago, a King County judge sided with the ACLU, saying that, while it is not permissible to implement a general pre-employment drug testing program that covers all positions, it is allowed for “safety-sensitive” positions.

Richland, Kennewick and Pasco can only do what they can to protect your family under the law. Richland says their background checks do a lot to uncover any drug or alcohol usage that would interfere with work.

KEPR called to find out what the city of Denver's policy is on recreational marijuana use among exempt employees, since their stores have already opened. There has been no change to their policy. Employees are allowed to use at home, off the clock. If caught intoxicated on the job, they're subject to Department of Transportation guidelines for impairment.