Marijuana-Using Californians Could Win Employment Rights this Year

Votes in Legislature Set for August on AB 2188, Other Reform Bills

California has a chance to catch up with other states that protect employment rights for off-the-job cannabis consumers this year, with a California NORML–sponsored bill AB 2188 (Quirk).

The bill would disallow job discrimination based on urine or hair tests that detect only inactive metabolites of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and thus are able to pick up use days or weeks before a test. It would still allow the use of oral swab or computer-based performance tests that are a better indicator of recent use, or impairment.

AB 2188 would allow an employer to take action against employees who are impaired on the job, and has exemptions for federal workers and those in the construction industry. It is supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California Nurses Association, CA Board of Registered Nursing, and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930. It is also supported by the California Employment Lawyers Association,  United Cannabis Business Association, Cannabis Equity Policy Council, Americans for Safe Access, and California Cannabis Industry Association, among others. The city councils of Oakland and San Francisco have passed resolutions in favor of the measure and recently, the largest federal workers union called for ending marijuana testing in legal states.

The bill has passed through the California Assembly and the Senate Judiciary and Labor committees, and has been assigned to the Appropriations suspense file. If it passes through at its August 11 committee hearing, it will move to the Senate floor for a vote. Please Write a Letter to Your State Senator in Support of AB 2188. 

The California Chamber of Commerce has removed the bill from its “job killer” list after amendments were taken in the Senate, necessitating the bill moving back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote, before heading to the Governor’s desk. All bills must be voted on in the legislature by the end of August.

“Cannabis is legal in California, and workers have a right to engage in legal activity while away from the job. Yet countless workers and job applicants are losing job opportunities or being fired because they test positive for legal, off-the-job use of marijuana on account of indiscriminate urine and hair metabolite tests,” said Cal NORML director Dale Gieringer. “Scientific studies have failed to show that urine testing is effective at preventing workplace accidents. Numerous studies have found that workers who test positive for metabolites have no higher risk of workplace accidents.”

“Ironically, under current drug testing rules, workers may use addictive opiates for medical use, but are forbidden to use medical cannabis, which has been shown to reduce opiate use,” Gieringer continued.

Twenty-one states currently have laws protecting employment rights for medical cannabis users, and five states (Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Montana and Connecticut) plus several cities (New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Kansas City MO, Rochester NY and Richmond VA) protect recreational cannabis consumers’ employment rights,” added Cal NORML Deputy Director Ellen Komp. “California, a global leader in progressive causes, still has no protections for its workers who consume cannabis. It’s high time to change that and protect California’s workers.”


Also passing on the floors of their respective houses are:

    • AB 1954 (Quirk), another Cal NORML-sponsored bill, which would protect the right of patients to medical treatment if they use marijuana, and the right of physicians and clinics to treat them. This bill has passed on the Assembly floor and in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development and Appropriations committees, and will be voted on in the Senate this month. Write a Letter to Your State Senator in Support of AB 1954. 
    • AB 1706 (Bonta), which would expedite expungement of past marijuana convictions in California. It has passed through the Assembly and the Senate Public Safety Committee, and is in the Senate Appropriations suspense file. Tell Your State Senator to Vote for AB 1706. 
    • SB 1186 (Wiener), to require all local governments to permit access to medicinal cannabis in either a licensed dispensary or via delivery, has passed on the Senate floor in the Assembly Business & Professions and Judiciary committees, where Cal NORML testified in favor of the bill. It is now in the Assembly Appropriations suspense file. Please Send a Letter to Your Assemblymember in Support of SB 1186. 
    • AB 2595 (Jones-Sawyer), which would require the State Department of Social Services to treat a parent’s use of cannabis in the same manner as alcohol or legally prescribed medication. It has passed through the Assembly and the Senate Human Services, Judiciary, and Appropriations committees and is up for a vote on the Senate floor. Write to Your State Senator in Support of AB 2595. 
    • SB 998 (Hueso) to amend Ryan’s Law requiring health care facilities to allow cannabis use by terminally ill patients. It has passed through the Senate and the Assembly Health committees and Appropriations and heads for a vote on the Assembly floor. Write a Letter in Support of SB 998. 
    • A bill Cal NORML opposes, SB 1097, which would require costly, badly designed new warnings with cannabis products. It has passed in the Senate and the Assembly Business & Professions committee, is in the Assembly Appropriations suspense file. TELL YOUR ASSEMBLYMEMBER TO VOTE AGAINST SB 1097.
    • AB 1885 (Kalra), allowing veterinarians to recommend cannabis products. It has passed through the Assembly and the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development committee and is in the Senate Appropriations suspense file. You can send a support letter on AB 1885 via
    • AB 2210 (Quirk – temporary cannabis event licenses). Has passed in the Assembly and the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development committee. Passed through Senate Governmental Organization and Appropriations committees; heading for vote on Senate floor.

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