More California Cannabis Employment Protections Likely On the Way

Good news for California employees who also happen to be cannabis enthusiasts: A bill that would bar companies from asking job candidates about previous marijuana use has already passed the state senate and has sailed through its second California Assembly committee. The bill would expand existing worker protections that were passed last year prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees who are shown (either by drug test, admission, or some other means) to have used marijuana off-the-clock. (There are some exceptions, such as workers in building and construction trades or those that require federal background checks or a certain level of security clearance.) California cannabis employment lawyer

Our Los Angeles cannabis business lawyers also practice employment law, so this is doubly good news.

After Senate Bill 700 cleared the state senate, it passed the Labor and Employment Committee, and then also the Judiciary Committee by a margin of 8-2. Now, it goes to the Appropriations Committee. If it passes there, it can advance to the floor. If the Assembly approves the measure, it will then be sent to the governor’s office for consideration. If it does manage to pass, its effective date would be Jan. 1, 2024.

But why was such a bill even necessary?

Proponents explained that despite an increasing number of employers becoming more accepting of recreational cannabis use among employees, a fair number still follow zero tolerance policies with respect to cannabis use – even if that use occurred long ago and before they ever considered working for that company. A recent analysis by Quest Diagnostics, one of the biggest drug testing companies in the U.S., revealed recreational cannabis use among workers reached “historic” highs in 2021.

On the one hand, companies may be shooting themselves in the foot with such a practice because they’re likely going to get fewer qualified candidates even applying for the position in the first place – which is especially unwise in a tight labor market. They might also disqualify a qualified candidate who otherwise would be a stellar asset – and they’re probably going to be reducing team diversity. On top of that, it creates a situation wherein applicants may be tempted to be dishonest in order to get the gig. So employers may be turning away people who are honest and upfront, while welcoming those who may be less forthright – and for what?

But the issue really comes down to how this impacts workers. Adults who engage in legal recreational cannabis use shouldn’t be turned down for jobs they’re qualified to take, proponents say.

Revamping employment cannabis policies isn’t a trend unique to California. A number of other states and federal government agencies have been switching things up as well.

Among those:

  • Michigan is looing to stop pre-employment drug testing for cannabis for most government job applications. At the same time, those already sanctioned for positive marijuana tests would be provided a means to have those penalties rescinded retroactively.
  • Washington State now protects prospective workers from discrimination over lawful marijuana use.
  • Nevada bars discrimination of job applicants who test positive for marijuana.
  • New York law protects adult employees who use legal cannabis while not working.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation just finalized a rule altering its drug testing policy, easing restrictions on airline pilots, truck drivers, and U.S. transit workers who use marijuana recreationally on their off time.
  • Those applying for jobs with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosions are no longer automatically disqualified if they previously grew, manufactured, or sold marijuana in compliance with state law. However, those who did so in violation of state marijuana laws will still be denied employment.
  • The U.S. Secret Service no longer automatically disqualifies prospective agents solely on the basis of prior marijuana use.

There are also rumbling among some federal lawmakers of putting together a bill that would shield federal employees from denial of security clearances over cannabis consumption. This aligns with the country’s largest federal employee union, which is actively advocating for the government to drop penalties against federal workers who legally consume marijuana during their time off.

According to one survey by the Intelligence and National Security Foundation (INSF), nearly one-third applicants 18-30 who have applied for federal jobs with security clearances had to withdraw their application due to strict security clearance requirements.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Legal Weed Drives Companies to Relax Their Drug Testing Policies, July 14, 2023, By Khorri Atkinson, Bloomberg News

More Blog Entries:

California Workers Won’t Need to Worry About Weed Use Off-the-Clock, Oct. 6, 2022, Los Angeles Cannabis Employment Lawyer Blog

Contact Information