California bill to provide workplace discrimination protection for medical cannabis users

With California’s legalization of recreational cannabis this year, state lawmakers continue to push legislation that normalizes cannabis use.

State Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, wants to see that normalization extended to the workplace through protections for employees who use cannabis for medical purposes. Eleven states have employment laws protecting medical cannabis patients against employment discrimination. California is not one of them.

Assembly Bill 2069 prohibits an employer from engaging in employment discrimination against a person “on the basis of his or her status as, or positive drug test for cannabis by a qualified patient or person with an identification card”. It would limit employers’ ability to deny a job applicant employment for testing positive for marijuana use or for acknowledging the use of marijuana if the individual has a card for medicinal cannabis.

“As we continue to make the massive transformation to legalization of adult use cannabis, and a full regulatory (system) for medical cannabis … we need to make sure the rights of users of cannabis as medicine are protected,” Bonta told the Business Journal.

The bill does limit those protections, however. For example, it would not protect employees from being disciplined or terminated for being impaired on the job. The bill would also exempt employers who would lose “monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law” as a result of employing an individual who uses cannabis.

According to recent polls conducted by Gallup and the Pew Research Center the majority of Americans (61%) support legalization of cannabis for either medicinal or recreational purposes. With growing acceptance of medical and recreational cannabis in the United States, employers should expect continued activity regulating employer and employee rights in this area.

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