California took an early leap of faith in the cannabis industry in the 90s, and it’s continued to grow over the years into the world’s biggest marijuana economy. However, prohibition on a federal level continues to carry significant weight, preventing many from indulging in God’s green gift to Earth because of potential repercussions.
Things are looking good for the casual smoker across California, who may deter from lighting one up because of their job. Per ABC News, California passed a bill on Tuesday that would prevent employers from punishing their workers if they were to test positive for cannabis. The proposed law indicates that companies would not have the legal grounds to fire an employee if they don’t pass a particular drug test that determines if someone’s used cannabis recently.
Conversations surrounding the use of these drug tests have been rampant in recent times. As people across the state gain millions of dollars from cultivating and selling cannabis, the average person can lose their job if they test positive for using cannabis in recent days. The test uses hair and urine samples to uncover metabolite, a natural substance in the body used to break down THC. The problem is that it doesn’t determine when they consumed cannabis. Mayor Clinic says it could be weeks, but this test will still be positive for THC. It’s not an accurate measuring stick to determine if someone is currently under the influence of marijuana.
This bill isn’t the be-all, end-all of the conversation, though. The author of the bill, Assemblymember Bill Quirk, insisted that this isn’t a freebie to allow workers to come to work stoned. There are a few loopholes in the laws that allow for other types of testing – primarily those that use saliva – to determine if someone is high at the time.
Nonetheless, it’s a step forward for California, which joins six other states like New Jersey and Connecticut, in protecting workers’ rights and reforming cannabis state laws. There was a 20-year gap between when they legalized medicinal cannabis in 1996 and became among the first states to move forward with cannabis legalization for recreational use in 2016. While the cannabis economy grew significantly over the years, there’s been little progress in protecting the laws of workers who choose to consume THC products.
The topic has raised pushback between the California Chamber Of Commerce and Labor Unions. Many Labor Unions argue that what employees do outside their working hours shouldn’t impact their ability to earn a living, especially if it doesn’t interfere with their job. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 secretary-treasurer Matt Bell told ABC that it creates hostility in the workplace. Bell said that if employees begin to feel “unsafe and harassed at work” if asked to do “outdated cannabis tests,” which ultimately doesn’t benefit workplace safety.
While it might be a win for Bell, the California Chamber of Commerce didn’t feel it was necessary to pass the bill. A letter to lawmakers said it would “create a protected status” for cannabis use, which they didn’t feel is essential because of discrimination bans. They made it evidently clear that they did not think that discriminating against someone based on race was not on the same par as dismissing an employee for cannabis use.
Still, there are a handful of exceptions to the law if it passes. Companies that require drug testing for federal funding or contracts will be exempt. Anyone that works in construction or building will also likely have to undergo drug tests, primarily since that sector benefits from federal funding often.
After being passed, the bill is heading to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, who will have the final say on it. Newsom will now have until the end of the month to decide whether he wants to sign it into California state laws. If approved, workers could be protected by law on Jan. 1st, 2024.