Marijuana Users: New Laws Provide Job Protections in California

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In a positive development for cannabis users, new laws have come into effect in California and Washington that provide job protections for marijuana users. These laws, which went into effect on January 1, aim to prevent employment discrimination against individuals who test positive for cannabis in drug screenings and prohibit employers from inquiring about off-duty marijuana use. The legislation in California, Assembly Bill 2188 (AB 2188), also safeguards job applicants from being denied employment based on drug test results. The new laws have been welcomed by cannabis policy advocates, who argue that tests based on urine or hair samples can yield positive results even weeks after marijuana use and do not indicate current impairment. Overall, these laws contribute to improving employment conditions for cannabis users in both California and Washington.

New Laws Provide Job Protections for California Marijuana Users

As the new year begins, marijuana users in California have gained new job protections with the implementation of two new laws that aim to prevent employment discrimination against cannabis users. These laws went into effect on January 1, 2024. California residents are not alone in enjoying these protections, as similar legislation has also been put into motion in the state of Washington.

AB 2188: Protections against Firing or Disciplining Employees Who Test Positive for Cannabis

Assembly Bill 2188 (AB 2188) was passed by the California state legislature and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2022. This bill explicitly prohibits employers from firing or disciplining employees who test positive for cannabis in a urine or hair test. Additionally, the law extends these protections to job applicants, ensuring that they cannot be denied employment based solely on the results of drug screenings. However, it’s important to note that employers are still permitted to use other types of drug tests for cannabis use, such as blood or saliva tests.

While AB 2188 provides important protections for cannabis users in the workplace, there are a few exceptions to the law. Employers in the building and construction industry are not subject to the employee protections outlined in AB 2188. Additionally, workers and job applicants in positions that require a federal background check or security clearance are exempt from the legislation.

SB 700: Bar on Employers Asking Job Candidates about off-duty Marijuana Use

Senate Bill 700 (SB 700) is another crucial piece of legislation that went into effect on January 1, 2024. This bill amends California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, specifically prohibiting employers from asking job candidates about their off-duty use of marijuana. However, it’s important to note that employers are still allowed to inquire about a candidate’s criminal history. Information about previous marijuana use related to criminal history can be used unless otherwise prohibited by law.

Opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce

While these new job protections are seen as positive by many, there has been opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, who initially labeled AB 2188 as a “job killer.” However, after revisions were made to the bill, the business group dropped its opposition.

Washington’s Job Protections for Pot Smokers

Similar legal protections for marijuana users were also put into place in the state of Washington. Under Senate Bill 5123, job applicants in Washington are safeguarded from hiring discrimination based on their legal use of cannabis. This legislation, approved by Governor Jay Inslee in May of the previous year, also came into effect on January 1, 2024. However, there are exceptions to these safeguards, including certain industries such as aerospace and airlines. Job applicants for safety-sensitive positions or positions that require federal background checks or security clearances are also exempted from the protections offered by the legislation, as are first responders and law enforcement officers.

Protection for Job Applicants based on Legal Use of Cannabis

These new laws in both California and Washington are designed to protect job applicants who engage in legal use of cannabis outside of work. This ensures that individuals are not unfairly discriminated against during the hiring process based on their off-duty marijuana use.

Exceptions for Safety-Sensitive Positions and Employment Requiring Background Checks

While the new laws provide important job protections, there are exceptions for positions that are considered safety-sensitive or require federal background checks or security clearances. This ensures that employers can still prioritize safety and adhere to federal regulations in these specific roles.

Exemption for First Responders and Law Enforcement Officers

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

First responders and law enforcement officers are also exempted from the job protections provided by these new laws. This exemption recognizes the unique responsibilities and requirements of these professions.

In conclusion, the implementation of new laws in California and Washington brings significant job protections for marijuana users. AB 2188 protects employees and job applicants from being fired or disciplined based on positive cannabis tests, while SB 700 prohibits employers from asking about off-duty marijuana use during the hiring process. Similar protections have been put into place in the state of Washington. It’s important to note that there are exceptions for safety-sensitive positions, roles requiring background checks, and certain industries. While there has been opposition, these laws aim to provide fair treatment and job opportunities for individuals who engage in legal use of cannabis.

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