Employment Rights for Marijuana Users a Priority for Cal NORML



UPDATE 9/18/2022 – Gov. Newsom Signs Bill to Protect Employment Rights of Cannabis Consumers, Other Reform Measures

9/1/2022 – California Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Rights of Workers Who Use Cannabis Off the Job

2/15/22: Cal NORML-sponsored Legislation Would Protect Employees’ Right to Use Cannabis Off the Job

11/9/2021 – Oakland Public Safety Committee Votes to Prohibit Cannabis Metabolites Testing of City Employees


7/76/21 – Oakland City Council and SF Board of Supervisors Approve Resolutions to Support Employment Rights for Cannabis Users

2/20/2021 – Asm. Asm. Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) has introduced an employment discrimination bill, AB 1256, to end employment discrimination based on testing for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in urine, hair or bodily fluids for both recreational and medical cannabis users, while allowing employers to maintain a safe workplace by disallowing cannabis use or intoxication on the job. Introduced as a two-year bill, the proposal will be heard in 2022 under a different bill number. Stay tuned and join Cal NORML’s email alert list for updates.

On June 15, the California State Personnel Board (SPB) ruled that the California Department of Transportation must reinstate an employee who failed a urine test for marijuana use, because such a test does not establish that an employee is under the influence of marijuana when reporting for duty. This ruling should protect most state workers against employment discrimination due to drug testing. Read more.


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. Cal NORML testified at a hearing on cannabis and employment rights in the CA Senate Labor Committee on November 9, 2019.

Until California’s law protecting employees who use cannabis off the job takes effect on 1/1/2024, California workers living with pain are currently forced to use more dangerous drugs like opiates, rather than medical cannabis. Many of these are front-line, essential workers like grocery store clerks that put themselves at risk for COVID infection daily, yet are unable to use their medicine or recreational relaxant of choice off the job. Over 30 studies have shown that legalizing marijuana can decrease opioid use, abuse, and/or overdose deaths.

A Cal NORML survey found that 24% of respondents have increased their use of opioid or other medications due to drug testing by their employer or doctor, 23% have been denied employment because of marijuana use, and 9.5% have been terminated from a job because of a drug test.

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.


Six other states, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Montana, and Rhode Island  have enacted laws protecting employment rights of recreational marijuana users, as have the cities of  Atlanta, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore MD, Rochester NY, Richmond VA, Isle MN and Kansas City MO. These states will be joined by California when our law protecting off-the-job cannabis use takes effect on 1/1/2024.

Twenty-three states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico 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 Jersey*
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island
South Dakota
West Virginia

*Also protect recreational users’ employment rights


The rights of Massachusetts medical patients were recently upheld in court in 2017, as were those of patients in Rhode Island and Connecticut. Read more. 

Other court decisions that have upheld employee rights:

2022: New Hampshire – Paine v. Ride-Away, Inc. – Employers must accommodate qualified patients enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis access program by exempting them from certain drug testing mandates

New Jersey – Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings LLC – Employers may not discriminate against patients who consume medical cannabis while away from the job

2019: Pennsylvania – Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems – A former employee can sue their former employer for discrimination if they are let go for the lawful use of cannabis

2019: New Jersey: Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings LLC – Employers may not discriminate against patients who consume medical cannabis while away from the job. The NJ Supreme Court upheld the ruling. 

2019: Arizona: Whitmire v. Walmart Stores Incorporated – An employee may not be terminated solely for testing positive for carboxy-THC

A pending bill in Congress, The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act, would protect the employment rights of federal employees in states with legal marijuana.


Join the Campaign! We will need your help to implement California’s new law

You can also support our efforts by joining Cal NORML.

Also see:

NORML Factsheet: Marijuana Legalization and Impact on the Workplace

Cannabis in the Workplace Comparative Law Review – a state-by-state analysis by Wilson Elser

An informative program from KALW radio on the topic

California Chamber of Commerce: Marijuana and Workplace Policies

Marijuana and the workplace



Labor shortage accelerates shift away from drug testing for new hires 7/2021

FBI Loosens Marijuana Employment Policy For Would-Be Agents 7/21

GM’s Policy on Cannabis Use Partly to Blame for Worker Shortage: UAW  7/21

Track Star Sha’Carri Richardson Banned from Olympic Race Over Marijuana Test 7/21

Amazon ditched cannabis testing, and more employers will likely follow 6/21

NFL’s new CBA will eliminate suspensions for positive marijuana tests, limit the testing period to the first two weeks of training camp and raise the threshold for a positive test from 35 to 150 nanograms of THC. 3/20

Kevin Durant: Time to End NBA Ban on Marijuana 2/20

Survey: Employers’ Attitudes Shifting Regarding Drug Testing for Cannabis 2/20

MLB removing marijuana from list of banned substances 12/19

When the Law Says Using Marijuana is OK, But the Boss Disagrees 7/19
This New York Times story also ran in the SF Chronicle. It interviews three California women who lost job opportunities due to their marijuana use, despite legalization.

Federal Court Rules In Favor Of Worker Rejected For Medical Marijuana Use 9/18
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

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