New California Bill Could Create Employee Right to Recreational Marijuana Use

Do California employees have the right to smoke weed? Marijuana has been legal for recreational use in California since 2016, however, many employers still make marijuana use grounds for termination and making hiring decisions. This disconnect has been frustrating for many employees and has led to the creation of a new bill. Bill 2188 would protect employees and job applicants from being penalized for using marijuana when they are not at work.

What is California Bill 2188? 

California Bill 2188 is a bill that would protect the rights of employees and job applicants to use marijuana when not at work. The bill would not apply to all professions. For instance, those working in the construction industry would be exempt from this protection. Additionally, federal employees and applicants would not qualify to use marijuana recreationally when not working, as marijuana remains a schedule I substance and illegal at a federal level and state law cannot preempt federal law.

The bill would function by including cannabis usage as a protected status under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. This law would prevent employees from being impaired by cannabis or using cannabis on the job and would make it illegal for employers to test for it either randomly or as the basis of making a hiring decision. This bill would allow employees to use marijuana recreationally, outside of work, while still permitting employers to maintain a drug-free workplace. 

The bill also aims to revolutionize the way that employers test for cannabis, which can remain in the system for several weeks. This means that testing is unable to show how recently the cannabis was consumed and if it is capable of having any impact on the employee’s work performance. The bill so far has passed the state assembly by a wide margin and is now waiting to be voted on in the California state senate. If the bill is passed in the state senate, it is on schedule to go into effect in January of 2024. 

What Could This Mean for Employees?

Employees frequently lose their jobs due to random drug tests looking for cannabis, or they do not receive a job because they test positive for the substance. This bill would remove this as a basis for making negative career decisions, from firing to hiring, concerning employees and applicants. It would make recreational use of marijuana outside of work a protected right for most employees in the state. This means that refusing to hire an employee for testing positive for marijuana, or firing, demoting, or taking any negative employment action toward an employee for marijuana use would constitute discrimination provided the use occurred outside of working hours and did not impair the employee’s performance at work. 

Schedule a Consultation with a California Employment Attorney 

If you have been fired for a discriminatory reason in California, it is important to contact a California employment attorney today. An employment attorney can help you hold your employer accountable and get you the compensation that you are entitled to. Contact a California employment attorney today to schedule a consultation.