California Just Passed a Significant Change to Employment Drug Testing


California just passed two new laws that protect the rights of people who use weed at work. Since these rules went into effect on January 1, 2024, most companies can’t discriminate against people who use cannabis or ask about it on job applications.

Also, employers must use a scientifically true test that only finds recent cannabis use instead of the more usual test that can find cannabis use months later. It is hoped that these changes will make it easier for people who use weed to get a new job or keep the one they already have.


Cannabis, which is also known as marijuana, is a plant that has chemicals in it that can make you feel, think, and see things differently. Many countries have laws and social norms that make it illegal to grow or use cannabis for both medical and pleasure reasons for a very long time.

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is a Schedule I drug in the United States. This means that it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. However, some states have made medical or recreational cannabis use legal, which means that state and federal rules are at odds with each other.

Cannabis was made legal in California for medical use in 1996, and for fun in 2016. The California Department of Public Health’s most recent data shows that more than 3.6 million people used cannabis in California in 2020. That’s about 11% of the adult population.

But even though weed is legal in California, many people who use it still face discrimination and abuse at work. weed users can be fired, given fines, or not hired if they fail a drug test. This is true even if they use weed legally and carefully outside of work hours and away from the workplace. This could hurt the health, well-being, and ability to make a living for weed users.

New Regulations

To deal with this problem, California lawmakers proposed two bills in 2022 that were meant to give cannabis users more rights at work. House Bill 2188 (AB 2188) and Senate Bill 700 (SB 700) were the bills in question. Governor Gavin Newsom signed both of them into law in September 2022. The new laws went into effect on January 1, 2024. They made a lot of changes to the old rules about weed use at work.

AB 2188

Assemblymember Rob Bonta wrote AB 2188, which changed the California Labour Code so that companies can’t randomly test job applicants or current workers for cannabis use unless the test is scientifically valid and the job falls under certain exceptions.

Some tests are scientifically sound if they can correctly measure how impaired or high someone is from cannabis use, not just the amount of cannabis metabolites in their body. Some jobs are exempt, like those in the building and construction trades or those that need a government background check or security clearance.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act was also changed by AB 2188. Now, employers can’t fire, punish, or discriminate against employees or job applicants because they use cannabis at home or outside of work unless they can prove that the cannabis use hurts or would hurt the employee’s work performance. The law also says that companies can’t ask about past cannabis use on job forms or during interviews unless the job falls into one of the categories listed above.

SB 700

SB 700, written by Senator Scott Wiener, changed the California Health and Safety Code so that employers can’t be unfair to employees or job applicants who are qualified patients under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. This law lets people with a doctor’s recommendation use cannabis for medical reasons.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016 lets people aged 21 and up use cannabis for recreational purposes. The law also says that companies can’t discriminate against workers or job prospects who use cannabis for medical reasons. Positions that are exempt from the law according to AB 2188 do not have to follow it.

The consequences

The new legislation is likely to have a substantial impact on both companies and employees in California. Employers must change their drug testing procedures and processes to meet the new regulations and avoid potential litigation.

Employers must utilize a scientifically valid test for cannabis use and refrain from discriminating against cannabis users based on test results or prior cannabis use unless they can demonstrate a genuine business justification for doing so. Employers must also protect cannabis users’ privacy and medical confidence, as well as provide reasonable accommodations for people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes unless doing so would cause undue hardship for the employer.

The regulations provide employees and job candidates with additional protection and flexibility to consume cannabis lawfully and responsibly outside of work and away from the workplace, without fear of losing their job or being rejected a job chance. Cannabis users can also exercise their rights and pursue legal action if they encounter job discrimination or harassment as a result of their cannabis usage.

However, the laws do not permit cannabis users to consume cannabis at work or while performing job obligations, or to work while impaired or inebriated by cannabis. Cannabis users must still adhere to their employers’ standards and expectations, as well as execute their duties safely and successfully.

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