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New state laws help protect marijuana users’ employment rights

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2024 | Employment Law

Even in California, where people have legally used marijuana for recreational purposes since 2016 (and for medical purposes long before that), other laws and regulations are still catching up with the reality of people’s lives. Fortunately, California took a big step forward at the beginning of this year. 

Two new laws took effect that help protect many employees who use marijuana from being denied a job or losing their job as a result. Let’s take a brief look at the laws.

One law prohibits most employers from asking job applicants or current employees anything about their use of marijuana in their personal lives. The other one prohibits most employers from using a drug test that shows the presence of non-active THC as a reason to deny employment to an applicant or take any negative action against an employee.

Exceptions to the law

Note that we say “most.” There are important exceptions. For example, the new laws don’t apply to those who work in construction where there can be a serious safety risk. 

They also don’t apply when employers have to comply with federal drug testing rules (since marijuana is still illegal under federal law). This can include federal agencies as well as trucking companies.

Minimizing employee discrimination and harassment

While marijuana use isn’t a protected characteristic when it comes to workplace discrimination, many marijuana users have long felt they were being discriminated against for something they did away from work that had no effect on their ability to do their job. The director of California NORML said, “Testing or threatening to test bodily fluids for cannabis metabolites has been the most common way that employers harass and discriminate against employees who lawfully use cannabis in the privacy of their own homes.” These metabolites can remain in a person’s body long after any impairment from the drug has worn off.

If you believe you’ve been wrongfully discriminated against by a prospective or current employer because of marijuana use outside of work, it’s wise to learn more about these state laws. Seeking legal guidance can also help you protect your rights and your job.