On June 21, 2021, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill into law that will strengthen protections for working professionals related to cannabis use. This executive decision effectively codifies an order he issued last year. Although initially filed by Senator Kevin Van Winkle, a Republican, the bill was approved by legislators in May 2021.
While the decision should come as no surprise considering Colorado legalized recreational marijuana ten years ago, the details of Polis's order and Van Winkle's bill include some notable changes.
With its enactment, state regulators may not take adverse action against professionals based solely on prior civil or criminal violations of cannabis activity, which is now legal in Colorado. This prevents systematic discrimination against individuals whose licenses and certifications could be denied or revoked, resulting in significant career setbacks.
Professionals now have the right to use marijuana in compliance with state law without being unfairly targeted or penalized for their actions.
The legislation protects those impacted before its enactment. It prevents regulators from using past cannabis-related professional disciplinary action elsewhere in the United States as a basis for denying licensure so long as the violation concerns lawful activity in Colorado. This act of law respects previous punishments and aims to avoid double jeopardy for already penalized professionals.
The bill's most remarkable aspect is the breadth of its protections. It is not limited to specific industries or professions. It applies to any professional holding a certification, registration, license, or other professional credential, protecting workers across many industries as Newsbreak first reported.
This legislation is crucial because, as Governor Polis argued last year when issuing his executive order, it was necessary to prevent deterring qualified individuals from pursuing work in the state, particularly amid workforce shortages.
Additionally, the legislation will align with Polis's executive order by prohibiting state agencies from assisting in investigations related to lawful cannabis conduct that could result in employment penalties. This law creates a comprehensive system of protection for those professionals in Colorado who use marijuana in compliance with state law. The state also joins New York and Nevada, which have passed similar legislation in recent years.
Governor Jared Polis's bill to safeguard Colorado's professionals who use marijuana in compliance with state law is a landmark decision. It represents a significant step in Colorado's marijuana legalization journey by protecting and supporting working professionals across many industries.
The legislation balances minimizing workforce shortages, avoiding discrimination against impacted individuals, and preventing the negative consequences of revocation of professionals' licenses and certifications.
The law takes effect immediately and should give peace of mind to the hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who use marijuana legally and work in regulated professions.
The country will watch how this model legislation operates and how other states consider enacting similar measures.