Oakland Public Safety Committee Votes to Prohibit Cannabis Metabolites Testing of City Employees

Oakland, CA — Today, November 9, 2021, the Oakland Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to forward the proposed ordinance introduced by Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan (pictured) and co-authored by Council President Fortunato Bas, Councilmember Kalb, and Pro Tem Thao, creating a Prohibition Against City Employees Cannabis Metabolites Testing.

Currently, the city tests employees for cannabis metabolites. This substance can show in a test for weeks after use, and is not an accurate indication of impairment. New York City and Philadelphia have ordinances that protect all employees, with the exception of federal employees from cannabis testing. Washington, DC and Atlanta have mayoral orders that protect city employees from employer discrimination for off-the-job use of marijuana.

The ordinance will now go to the Rules committee and If it passes, it would make Oakland the first city in California to protect its employees against job discrimination for off-the-job cannabis use.

After introducing the ordinance’s language and lamenting the city’s inability to fill many open positions, Vice Mayor Kaplin noted, “The fact that we are still in this day and age excluding people for off-duty cannabis use in the city that invented cannabis legalization makes no sense, and it means streets not being paved and garbage not being picked up and permits not being issued. This is not in alignment with our vision for justice and not in alignment with our needs as a public-service institution.”

She continued, “I want to add that it is also my goal that we will work with our federal lobbyist on those positions that we are being ordered to do it that we should seek to change federal law, and explain to our federal decision makers that what people are being tested for is not impairment at work; what people are being tested for is unrelated off-the-job conduct, and it is both unfair and not useful in terms of getting the jobs done.”

Councilmember Fife, chairing the meeting, said she wholeheartedly supported the item, especially in the face of the crisis of vacant positions in Oakland. She and councilmembers Gallo and Reid, along with Vice Mayor Kaplan, voted in favor of the measure.

Oakland also lead the way in passing a resolution in favor of SB 1256, Asm. Quirk’s pending bill to end employment discrimination based on inactive metabolite testing for cannabis for most employees, public and private, at the state level. Oakland was quickly followed by San Francisco also passing a similar resolution in July 2021, and by LA City Councilmember Raman introducing a resolution in support of AB 1256 in October. “California has long had a progressive stance on the consumption of cannabis — but it has fallen short in protecting its workers who use cannabis off the job,” said Councilmember Raman. “Each day we neglect removing these outdated drug testing requirements is another day we are erecting roadblocks to ensuring a truly robust and equitable workforce.”

On June 15, 2021 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, but not city or private company employees. Read more.

Amazon announced it would cease employment drug testing for cannabis in June, and New York is the latest state to protect its recreational cannabis users from job discrimination; 21 states plus Washington, DC (but not California) protect medical marijuana users against similar discrimination.

The results  of an online survey that Cal NORML is conducting indicate:

– 31% of respondents (with another 14% unsure) have been denied employment for testing positive for marijuana
– 8.5% had been terminated because of a positive marijuana test
– 66% are looking for a job and afraid of discrimination due to their marijuana use
– 58.5% have stopped using marijuana because of drug testing by their employer or doctor

Read more about Cal NORML’s Employment Rights campaign.

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