“Employers tell me constantly, we’ve got jobs going wanting, we can’t get the workers because they can’t pass a drug screening and various other things.”
By Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector
Kansas lawmakers said marijuana legalization, political stances and state funding were potential roadblocks in addressing the state’s severe workforce shortage.
Sen. Virgil Peck, R-Havana, said the Special Committee on Workforce Development needed to talk about marijuana legalization before lawmakers discussed it during the upcoming legislative session.
Lawmakers passed a motion to make a recommendation that the legislature “proceed with caution” with marijuana legislation during the Monday committee hearing, by a 4-3 vote.
Peck brought up the issue, saying the idea came to him earlier in that day while taking a shower.
“I didn’t think of it until taking a shower this morning, about 7:30. It came to me that that plays into workforce development,” he said.
Peck said marijuana was a significant problem in his part of the state, with employers not willing to hire employees who couldn’t pass a drug test. He said that marijuana was a safety liability, and could impede business where workers had to use heavy machinery and could be injured.
“Employers tell me constantly, we’ve got jobs going wanting, we can’t get the workers because they can’t pass a drug screening and various other things,” Peck said.
Rep. Sean Tarwater, R-Stilwell, said he agreed with Peck that people who imbibed marijuana could cause problems in the workplace.
Other lawmakers at the meeting said they weren’t able to vote on the recommendation, as the issue had not been discussed before the meeting. Sen. Brenda Dietrich, R-Topeka, abstained from the vote.
“I think my only concern is we’re inserting something that hasn’t been vetted in this committee at the last minute,” Dietrich said. “And I understand what you’re saying, it’s just not an appropriate position for us to take as a committee.”
Medical marijuana has long been a controversial topic in Kansas, with many advocating for the drug as a pain relief substitute that is less addictive than opioids
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, D-Overland Park, opposed the recommendation, saying that legislators didn’t have to be drug tested, so neither should Kansas workers.
“I don’t like the idea of imposing something on the people, setting different rules for us than them. So that’s a big issue, and I also have concerns, because I think—in fact, I know, medicinal and recreational cannabis will be helpful to a business development, in particular in the greater Kansas City area, where this is already legalized in Missouri,” Clayton said.
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