New Employment Protections for California Weed Users

Stephen Andrews
03 Jan 2024

California workers who use cannabis outside work hours will have more protections under two new bills that went into effect on January 1. The legislation aims to protect against workplace discrimination for those who test positive for THC in certain drug screenings. In addition, employers may not ask employees or job candidates about use of weed in their free time.

California’s Assembly Bill 2188 limits the ability of employers to fire or discipline personnel who return positive urine or hair tests for cannabis. Job applicants also receive protections, and they cannot be denied employment based on the results of such drug screenings under the new law. 

Exceptions are employees in the building and construction sector, as well as workers and job applicants who are subject to federal background check or security clearance. 

The bill was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom in 2022, together with other cannabis-related legislation. 

Employers May Still Use Other Types of Drug Tests  

The upgraded law does not butt in with the right of employers to maintain a drug-free workplace, however. They can still turn to other drug screening options, such as blood and saliva tests, to determine actual impairment on the job. 

Marijuana policy reform advocates have long been vocal of drug screenings that solely rely on urine or hair samples. These specific tests sometimes return positive results weeks after the person tested used marijuana and do not indicate impairment at the time the sample was taken. 

Dale Gieringer, who helms the California state chapter of NORML, said that the workplace protections going effective on New Year’s Day improve the employment conditions for California’s workforce. 

The reforms are the fruition of a multi-year campaign led by California NORML, Gieringer commented. “Testing or threatening to test bodily fluids for cannabis metabolites has been the most common way that employers harass and discriminate against employees who lawfully use cannabis in the privacy of their own homes,” he said in a statement

He added: “These new laws will end that practice without impacting workplace safety. Numerous studies have found that workers who test positive for cannabis metabolites have no higher risk of workplace accidents.”

Those Californians who have been subject of discrimination due to cannabis use outside of work, such as being fired or disciplined as an employee or denied a job position following a pre-employment screening, can file a complaint with the CA Civil Rights Department, and they can also contact California NORML to ask for help. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

Can You Roll After Work?

Off-Duty Weed Use Not a Risk Factor for Work Injury

- Rules on Cannabis Deter Young People from Seeking Government Jobs

Stephen Andrews