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California Bans Workplace Discrimination Based on Cannabis Use Outside of Work

CALIFORNIA – Starting January 1, 2024, California employers with five or more employees cannot discriminate against workers for off-duty cannabis use, as per new state laws AB 2188 and SB 700. AB 2188, signed in 2022 by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

According to Fox 5 San Diego, employers are prohibited from penalizing employees or applicants based on cannabis use outside of work, and asking applicants about prior cannabis use is also illegal.

“While there is consensus that no one should ever show up to work high or impaired, testing positive for this metabolite has no correlation to workplace safety or productivity,” Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva said in a 2022 report. “Testing for THC may indicate an individual is impaired at work and is a better way to maintain work place safety. AB 2188 is a balanced solution that will protect the rights of employees and employers.”

Employers can still screen for active THC and take disciplinary action for workplace impairment, as specified in AB 2188. Certain industries, like construction or federally funded workplaces, are exempt from testing protections.

Advocates argue that despite cannabis legalization in 2016, discrimination remains, particularly affecting Black communities, who are twice as likely to face consequences for failing drug tests compared to their white counterparts. California now joins seven other states with similar protections, while twenty states only bar discrimination against medical cannabis users.

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