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New laws help protect marijuana users

On Behalf of | Dec 31, 2023 | Employment Law |

It’s been six years since recreational marijuana became legal in California, and it’s been legal for medicinal purposes for far longer. However, some employers have been slow to recognize that people can use marijuana on their own time without it affecting their ability to do their job or the safety of the workplace.

Two new laws effective at the beginning of the year will help protect people from being denied work or losing their jobs based on their use of marijuana in their personal lives. One law prohibits most employers from asking applicants or current employees about their personal use of the drug in their non-work hours.

Another new law prohibits most employers from denying someone a job or from firing or taking negative action against a current employee because a drug test indicates the presence of inactive THC. THC, as most people know, is the element in marijuana that provides the “high.” If THC is still active, a person may feel or exhibit impairment. However, after THC has been metabolized by the body, inactive THC can still be detected in toxicology tests for weeks after the last use.

There are exceptions

It’s important to note that the new laws don’t apply to construction workers, truck drivers and other jobs where safety is a critical concern or that operate under federal regulations. It’s also crucial to remember that if an employee is found to be impaired by marijuana on the job, employers have a right to take adverse action against them. The same is true if they test positive for active THC.

The director of California NORML applauded the new laws, saying, “Testing or threatening to test bodily fluids for cannabis metabolites has been the most common way that employers harass and discriminate against employees who lawfully use cannabis in the privacy of their own homes.”

It’s crucial for employees to know and be able to assert their rights, because employers don’t always keep up on or choose to follow new laws. It can also help to have legal guidance if your employer hasn’t followed the law.