California workers don’t have to worry about being fired or not hired for off-the-clock marijuana use

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Under a new state law, it will soon be illegal for employers in California to allow marijuana use outside and outside of work as a factor in hiring or firing decisions.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law Sunday making California the seventh state in the United States to prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who smoke weed “outside of work and away from the workplace.” The new law will come into effect on January 1, 2024.

The law prohibits employers from making hiring, firing, or other employment decisions based on a drug test that finds “non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites” in a person’s hair or urine that do not indicate a current disability, but that a person has recently used cannabis. until weeks before, according to Assembly Bill 2188 that Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) sponsored.

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“Urine tests are a very offensive invasion of employees’ personal bodily privacy,” Dale Gieringer, director of California’s NORML chapter, which advocates progressive marijuana policies, said of the bill after it was passed. “Workers should have the same right to use cannabis as they do to use any other legal substance outside of work.”

Jim Araby, the director of strategic campaigns for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, called the new law a “victory for all workers.”

“No employee deserves to feel stigmatized and unsafe at work because of an outdated testing method,” Araby said. “There are much more accurate, modern cannabis testing methods, such as cotton swabs, that can detect recent use and increase workplace safety.”

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The new law provides exemptions for people who work in building and construction, as well as those who apply for or work in positions that require a federal background clearance.

The law still allows employers to require drug screening as a condition of employment, as long as the tests “do not screen for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites.” After using cannabis, the chemical compound that can cause psychoactive effects becomes tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, a non-psychoactive cannabis metabolite, which can remain in the system for weeks. That metabolite does not indicate a current disorder.

Newsom signed the Employment Discrimination Act Sunday, along with nine other cannabis policy changes, including one that would seal old cannabis-related criminal convictions and create a process for interstate business cannabis transactions.

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“For too many Californians, the promise of legalizing cannabis remains out of reach,” Newsom said in a statement. “These measures build on the important steps our state has taken toward this goal, but much work remains to be done to build a just, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry.”

The new laws come weeks after The Times published an investigation into the impact of the state’s legal cannabis industry, finding that the illegal cannabis industry has grown steadily since legalization in 2016, affecting farm workers, the environment, community safety and the licensed market often pay the price.

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