Many Californians have been using marijuana legally since the 1990s, when it became legal for medical purposes. Although it’s been legal for adult recreational use since 2016, employment laws haven’t kept up with this widespread use.
For example, businesses that require applicants and, in some cases, employees to take drug tests have still been able to deny or terminate employment if someone is found to have THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — in their system. People can test positive for it days after they last used it or were under the influence.
A new law will protect workers’ cannabis use
On Sept. 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that supporters say will end “cannabis discrimination” by employers. When it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, Assembly Bill (AB) 2188 would prohibit many employers from rejecting applicants or penalizing employees for using the drug outside of work. There would still be exceptions for employers bound by federal drug testing regulations since marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
Although California is often at the forefront of laws granting more employee rights, a number of other states already have similar laws in place. Multiple studies have shown – contrary to the belief of many people – that marijuana use outside work doesn’t increase the risk of workplace injuries.
While the law is still over a year away from going into effect, it will mean some significant changes for many California employers who use drug testing for hiring and other purposes. Those that fail to update their policies and practices could face costly consequences.