Bill to Stop Employers Asking About Past Cannabis Use Passes CA Senate

    The California Senate has approved a bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about prior marijuana use.

    After moving through four committees, the legislation from Senator Steven Bradford (D) passed on the floor in a 29-9 vote on May 30, sending it to the Assembly for consideration.

    It would build on existing employment protections enacted last session that bar employers from penalizing most workers for using cannabis off the job in compliance with state law.

    “It is unlawful for an employer to request information from an applicant for employment relating to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis,” the bill text says.

    Current law, as enacted last year, says that it is unlawful for employers “to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalizing a person, if the discrimination is based upon” off-duty marijuana use or drug tests that reveal cannabinoid metabolites.

    There are exceptions to the policy for workers “in the building and construction trades,” as well as those that require federal background checks and security clearances.

    Cannabis-related employment policies have been a major topic across the country amid the marijuana legalization movement.

    If the bill that’s advancing this session is ultimately sent to the governor and signed, it would take effect January 1, 2024. That’s also the effective date of the earlier cannabis employment protections legislation that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed last year.

    Cannabis-related employment policies have been a major topic across the country amid the marijuana legalization movement.

    For example, Michigan officials recently proposed ending pre-employment drug testing for marijuana for most government job applicants, while also giving people who’ve already been penalized over positive THC tests an opportunity to have the sanction retroactively rescinded.

    Last month, the governor of Washington State signed a bill into law that will protect workers from facing employment discrimination during the hiring process over their lawful use of marijuana.

    That means Washington has joined Nevada in prohibiting discrimination against job applicants for testing positive for marijuana. New York also provides broader employment protections for adults who legally use cannabis during off-hours and away from work.

    Four New Jersey police officers are preparing to sue Jersey City after being fired for testing positive for marijuana—despite being protected under the state’s cannabis legalization law and guidance from the state attorney general.

    The US Department of Transportation (DOT) recently finalized a rule to amend its drug testing policy in a way that could have significant implications for truckers, commercial drivers, pilots and other federally regulated transit workers who use marijuana off the job.

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has updated its employment policy to make it so applicants who’ve grown, manufactured or sold marijuana in compliance with state laws while serving in a “position of public responsibility” will no longer be automatically disqualified—although those who did so in violation of state cannabis policies won’t be considered.

    The Secret Service also recently relaxed restrictions on prior marijuana use by prospective agents.

    Late last year, draft documents obtained by Marijuana Moment showed that the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was proposing to replace a series of job application forms for prospective workers in a way that would treat past cannabis use much more leniently than under current policy.

    The Biden administration instituted a policy in 2021 authorizing waivers to be granted to certain workers who disclose prior marijuana use, but some lawmakers have pushed for additional reform.

    For example, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said at a congressional hearing on marijuana legalization last year that he intended to file a bill aimed at protecting federal workers from being denied security clearances over cannabis.

    Last year, the nation’s largest union representing federal employees adopted a resolution in support of marijuana legalization and calling for an end to policies that penalize federal workers who use cannabis responsibly while they’re off the clock in states where it is legal.

    The director of national intelligence (DNI) said in 2021 that federal employers shouldn’t outright reject security clearance applicants over past use, and should use discretion when it comes to those with cannabis investments in their stock portfolios.

    A recent survey found that 30 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 30 have either declined to apply or withdrawn applications for federal jobs because of strict anti-marijuana policies around security clearances.



    Photograph via RawPixel/Public Domain

    This story was originally published by Marijuana Moment, which tracks the politics and policy of cannabis and drugs. Follow Marijuana Moment on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for its newsletter.

    • Kyle is Marijuana Moment‘s Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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