Employment Rights for Marijuana Users a Priority for Cal NORML

UPDATED 2/15/2019


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Hear an informative program from KALW radio on the topic

UPDATE 2/19 - A federal court in Arizona has ruled that a Walmart store could not prove an employee who held a valid medical-marijuana card was impaired at work after a drug test came back positive. Her termination was ruled in violation of the nondiscrimination provision in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

As we feared, one of the most frequently asked questions we have been getting since Prop. 64 passed legalizing adult marijuana use in California is, "Am I now protected against drug testing on my job?"

Sadly, the answer is most often, "No." Prop. 64 specifically allows employers to continue to discriminate against their workers, even when their marijuana use is during nonworking hours. In California, even medical marijuana patients are not protected against employment discrimination. California’s Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that Prop. 215 does not grant workers’ rights, and a law passed to change that in 2008 was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

San Francisco has a law against employment drug testing.

Eleven states have made it illegal for an employer to not hire or to discriminate against either a job applicant or employee who uses medical marijuana, under certain conditions. Some also protect tenants' rights, parental rights, and others.

Those states are:

New York
Rhode Island

Massachusetts does not have this language, but the rights of its medical patients were recently upheld in court, as were the rights of patients in Rhode Island and Connecticut, and also in Arizona.

*Maine's voter approved initiative is expected to protect recreational marijuana users on the job as of February 2018, unless it can be proved that there is a safety concern. Read more: MAINE BECOMES FIRST STATE TO PROTECT EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS FOR RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA USERS.

Cal NORML is making it a priority to advance legislation to protect workers' rights in California. Employment drug testing has been shown in federal studies not to improve worker safety, but it's a great way to discriminate against cannabis consumers. We hope to sponsor a bill that will truly make marijuana legal for all adults and educate unions and employers about the needlessness of drug testing.

Join the Campaign! We will need you to lobby your elected officials to introduce and pass a bill.

You can also support our efforts by joining Cal NORML.

Also see:

California Chamber of Commerce: Marijuana and Workplace Policies

Marijuana and the workplace


Federal Court Rules In Favor Of Worker Rejected For Medical Marijuana Use 9/19
A Connecticut woman’s rights under that state’s medical marijuana law were violated when a company refused to hire her on the basis of her legal cannabis use, and a lawsuit seeking damages against her would-be employer may proceed, a federal judge ruled. In 2016, Katelin Noffsinger filed suit against Bride Brook Health and Rehabilitation Center, a federal contractor, after a job offer was rescinded following a positive test for cannabis on a pre-employment drug test. Noffsinger had accepted a management-level position with the firm, which then scheduled a drug test. Prior to the test, Noffsinger informed Bride Brook that she was a qualified cannabis patient under Connecticut’s Palliative Use of Marijuana Act, and used the drug—namely, synthetic marijuana pills, consumed in the evening—to treat post-traumatic stress disorder following a 2012 car crash.

Bill To Protect Medical Marijuana Patients from Employment Discrimination Introduced in California 2/18

A Growing Trend In Favor of Medical Marijuana Users in the Employment Context 10/17

Employers and advocates look for answers as more workers failing drug tests in Northern California 10/17

More Colorado businesses dropping pot from pre-employment drug tests

Study: Workplace Absences Decline Following Passage Of Medical Cannabis Laws

Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Associated With Greater Workforce Participation Among Older Americans

Drug testing: Tech firms adopt ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ stance on cannabis use

Hiring Hurdle: Finding Workers Who Can Pass a Drug Test

Marijuana may be legal, but it can still get you fired

Marijuana reform is a work in progress despite Prop. 64 victory

Legal Marijuana Poses New Problems For Employee Drug Testing WSJ 11/22/16

California employers question drug testing policies in face of Proposition 64 Nor Cal Record

Marijuana, now legal in California, can still stop workers from getting a job LA Times

Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ

Drug Tests Don't Make Sense, So Why Are Employers Still Using Them?

NORML's Model Workplace Policy for Cannabis

It’s Time For Employers To Rethink Marijuana, Drug-Testing Policies


It is a shame that one could get drunk from alcohol and show up to work the next day with a hangover, affecting their performance. Yet a card holder who uses medical marijuana during non working hours and shows up to work the next day with no hangover whatsoever is the one who gets fired.

Loss prevention

I just recently found out about my company's right to discriminate against me after four and a half years of loyal service with perfect reviews working for the Vallarta Supermarkets I was fired for having a medical marijuana recommendation my company did not even have to drug test me they simply had a supervisor make an allegation and they fired me. And now I am being denied unemployment benefits the company did not even have to prove I never violated any of their policies. Just my admission to having a recommendation was enough. I always assumed I was following the rules not on company time not on company property not well on company business but apparently it wasn't enough for the Vallarta Supermarkets.

Im sickenned by this

Its really ashamed that all these other states protect us hard workers. But CALIFORNIA still has not protected me or other valuable employees from this unfair unjust discrimination.. This is THE USA and i want our freedom and our liberty to be respected as this GREAT NATION intended

What are the conditions...

that make it illegal for an employer to not hire or to discriminate against either a job applicant or employee who uses medical marijuana.

My situation is tricky. I have been hired to teach ESL to inmates. But, I need to pass a security clearance in order to do so. I disclosed myself as a mmj patient. I was then asked how often I use it etc. I felt uncomfortable answering those questions even though, truthfully, 80% of my use is topical. I was told that before Prop. 64 passed, I would have been denied a security clearance upon disclosure. But now, LE feels there is a gray area (which I think is not true. I have always been legal under 215) Anyway, they are going ahead with fingerprinting and the background check for now. They are saying it is a maybe depending on what else they find...which won't be anything.

Obviously, working with inmates is sensitive and I plan on fully complying with certain requests like to not smell like mmj or to be under the influence while at work. I would do that without them asking. But, I am unsure how much I should need to disclose about my use. I am on disability through a pension and I know I have certain rights that pertain to my disability.

Any advice would be helpful.