SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — California could soon become the seventh state to ensure people don’t lose their jobs if they smoke marijuana after hours.
State lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill that would prevent companies from penalizing employees who fail a certain type of drug test that determines not whether a person is high, but whether they have used marijuana at all in recent days.
These tests, which are based on urine or hair samples, look for a substance that is produced by the body when it breaks down THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. But this substance, called metabolites, can remain in a person’s body for several weeks after marijuana use.
Legislation will prevent workers from being punished for failing these types of drug tests. Companies can still penalize employees for failing other types of tests that use saliva to better determine if a person is currently high.
The bill is now on the desk of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has until the end of September to decide whether to sign it into law. It will come into force on January 1, 2024.
“Nothing in this bill will allow anyone to rise (work) high,” said Assemblyman Bill Quirk, a Democrat from Hayward and the author of the bill.
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016. But the state has been slow to enact laws to protect workers who use marijuana in their spare time.
Six other states — Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Montana, and Rhode Island — have laws protecting workers’ rights to use recreational marijuana, according to the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform. Twenty-one states have laws that protect workers who use medical marijuana from discrimination.
Unions argue that it is unfair to penalize employees for doing something that is legal outside of their job and does not interfere with their duties at work.
“Using outdated cannabis tests only makes employees feel unsafe and harassed at work, but does not increase workplace safety,” said Matt Bell, secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324.
The bill includes a number of exemptions to protect employers. This does not apply to companies that must conduct drug testing in order to receive federal funding or fulfill federal contracts. This also does not apply to those who work in construction and construction, an industry that receives a lot of federal funding.
However, the California Chamber of Commerce opposed the law because it would “create a protected status for marijuana use” in state law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace.
“To put it simply: using marijuana is not the same as protecting workers from discrimination based on race or national origin,” the House wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
About the photo: A guest takes a puff on a marijuana cigarette at Sensi Magazine’s 420th Anniversary Party in the Bel Air area of Los Angeles on April 20, 2019. California lawmakers on Tuesday, August 30, 2022, approved a bill that would prevent companies from penalizing employees who use marijuana outside of work. Companies can still fire or punish employees for using marijuana at work or showing up to work while intoxicated. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, file)
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