California legislation to protect workers who use marijuana outside of work

If signed into law, the bill will "protect employees who fail a certain type of common drug test that detects the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, THC."

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Lawmakers in California passed a bill that would prohibit companies from punishing employees who use marijuana outside of work. The bill passed with a vote of 41-15.

If signed into law, the bill will “protect employees who fail a certain type of common drug test that detects the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, THC,” according to Causes.com. Since the test is able to detect substances up to a few weeks after use, this could cause people to fail drug tests even if not actively high, which the legislation would then protect these workers from being punished.

“This bill addresses the flaws in employers’ use of cannabis testing methods, like urine tests, to discriminate against workers’ employment and right,” Jenny Phan, United Food and Commercial Workers union member, said. “Using oral swab tests are not only more accurate at detecting recent use, but a step toward ending the stigma of cannabis use.”

According to Causes.com, “companies would still be able to punish employees for using or possessing marijuana at work or failing more precise drug tests that are better at detecting if a person is currently high.”

“Nothing in this bill would allow someone to come (to work) high,” Assemblymember Bill Quirk, a Democrat from Hayward and the author of the bill, said.

California, who legalized recreational marijuana usage in 2016, would become the seventh state to implement such legislation joining Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Montana and Rhode Island. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, twenty-one states have legislation that protects workers who use medical marijuana.

The California Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill saying that the legislation would limit an employer from ensuring a safe workplace.

“Put simply: marijuana use is not the same as protecting workers against discrimination based on race or national origin,” the chamber wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

But advocates of the bill believe that “employees shouldn’t be punished for doing something legal outside of their job that doesn’t impact their abilities at work,” according to Causes.com.

“Using outdated cannabis tests only causes employees to feel unsafe and harassed at work, it does not increase workplace safety,” Matt Bell, secretary-treasurer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has until the end of the month to sign the legislation into law, and if approved, the law would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

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