Ever since California legalized marijuana, state government job applicants have found cannabis use to be a major hurdle in gaining employment. Too often, legal cannabis is the reason candidates are deemed ineligible for government agency jobs.
With a sharp rise in the number of public and private sector job seekers disqualified for testing positive for marijuana use, calls have been made to update legislation. Insiders are asking whether rules of employment should now be relaxed, given marijuana use is far more widely accepted today, than it was prior to its legalization.
Our Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers are here to help those needing cannabis therapy and still wishing to remain employed. Especially as opponents of marijuana use in the workplace are making strong cases against it. For example, a National Institute on Drug Abuse study recently found that workers testing positive to marijuana use also had:
- 55% more industrial accidents than those not using marijuana;
- 85% more injuries compared with those abstaining from cannabis use; and
- 75% greater absenteeism than those who did use cannabis
When Proposition 64 was voted into Californian law in 2016, private and public employers were permitted to mandate that their employees maintain a drug-free workplace. It also allowed employers to terminate workers failing to adhere to these policies. While these guidelines appear reasonable in ensuring folks are not impaired at work, it does little to account for those medically needing cannabis.
The number of Californian employees and job seekers, in jobs not deemed safety-sensitive, who returned positive marijuana use tests has risen from 2.3 percent in 2015, to 3.1 percent in 2018. According to analysts, this increase is greater than the national average rise of 2.8 percent.
A New Challenge for Employers
Not only is marijuana use prevalent throughout the Californian workforce, it will only continue to grow. As a result, employers now have to weigh policies that guard and protect their employees, customers and the general public, as well as assess the benefits and dangers marijuana use by employees outside of business hours, could pose to their business.
Pro-cannabis supporters like Ellen Komp, representative for California NORML, don’t believe banning the use of cannabis is needed to ensure safety in the workplace. “Our position is that people can legally and responsibly use marijuana off the job, as long as they don’t show up to work impaired, or use it on the job.”
Assembly Bill 2355
Rob Bonta, Dem. Alameda agrees. He recently introduced Assembly Bill 2355, to help give patients a framework in which they can use medical marijuana while employed. This bill does not protect the use of marijuana during work hours, nor extend to those working in positions where marijuana use could pose a considerable safety hazard, such as use by aviation pilots, school bus drivers and truck drivers.
If the legislation is passed, it would mandate that both public and private sector employers accommodate job applicants and employees who use medical marijuana outside the workplace and not during work hours. To help give employers some peace-of-mind that their workforce is not abusing the policy, AB 2355 would allow workplaces to require:
- employees using medical marijuana first provide their valid medical marijuana ID card;
- employees also submit to employers their cannabis dosage or treatment regimen as recommended by their doctor;
- the patient’s doctor must hold a license to practice medicine in California; and
- the treatment regimen provided must be in line with the Medical Board of California guidelines.
As Proposition 64 does not offer any safeguards for legal marijuana use in the workplace, and given federal law still deems marijuana a Schedule I drug, it’s unlikely those laws restricting pot use in the workplace will be relaxed any time soon.
The challenge lies in that by allowing drug use in the workplace, even if legal medical marijuana use, the safety of others may be jeopardized. This is largely why businesses holding federal contracts are often mandated to ensure workplaces are drug-free.
And while workplace safety is always a priority, this scenario does prove problematic for medical marijuana users. The current law allows employees to be subjected to random drug testing, and disciplinary action may follow for those returning a positive marijuana use test, regardless of whether the marijuana was used lawfully, away from work, and did not impair the employee while on the job.
If Assembly Bill 2355 is passed, it will at least give employers a policy to follow that will protect medical marijuana users, while still restricting recreational users in the workplace.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.