According to two new laws, employers in California are now prohibited from inquiring about their workers’ cannabis use outside the workplace or discriminating against them because of it. Moreover, employers can no longer ask their workers to take urine or hair tests in pursuit of detecting this particular substance.
Of course, as marijuana use remains a federal offense, applicants for federal jobs with background checks and employees in construction are excluded from this new rule. Governor Gavin Newson signed these two bills meant to reinforce the legality of the state’s legal cannabis industry by kicking outdated laws to the curb.
Key provisions of Assembly Bill 2188
Assembly Bill 2188, which was signed in 2022, specifically prohibits employers from using urine or hair tests for marijuana (these tests can detect traces of cannabis for days or weeks) when penalizing, firing or hiring employees. The governor believes that rigid bureaucracy and federal prohibitions pose a challenge to the cannabis industry and its customers.
Along with AB 2188, the governor also signed SB700 in 2023, which clarified AB 2188 through an amendment of the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act to prohibit employers from inquiring about job applicants’ prior cannabis use.
Cannabis customer rights
Assembly Bill 2188 was sponsored by California NORML, a nonprofit organization that advocates for cannabis customer rights. According to NORML, urine and hair tests do not actually detect cannabis impairment, a fact that the federal government acknowledges.
California Chamber of Commerce opposes AB 2188 and the National Federation of Independent Business perceives the new legislation as a significant compliance headache for small business owners in the state. Critics argue that employers should be able to maintain safe working environments by reprimanding workers who report for duty while impaired. However, it’s critical to note that the new legislation does not prohibit employers from using other tests, such as blood tests, to detect impairment if they have concerns.
Staying abreast of the latest legislative changes to employment laws in the Golden State is helpful for employees and employers alike. Having current knowledge enables employers to stay compliant and can empower employees to advocate for their rights.