Can I Use Medical Marijuana at Work in California?
Though the Golden State legalized recreational marijuana use, many workers have questions about using medical marijuana at work. Whether you can smoke at work hinges on your employer’s rules and regulations. However, smoking marijuana is also generally prohibited in public places, and many workplaces are smoke-free. This means that smoking medical marijuana at work may violate workplace policies.
While California employers can prohibit on-the-job marijuana use, recently, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2188 into law, safeguarding employees who use marijuana generally. This legislation, which takes effect on January 1, 2024, aims to prevent employers from discriminating against individuals for their off-the-job marijuana use and from relying on specific drug testing methods to make employment decisions. If you have questions regarding your employment, please reach out to a Los Angeles employment attorney.
What Were California’s Rules About Medical Marijuana at Work Before AB 2188?
In 1996, California Proposition 215 legalized medicinal marijuana for specific uses. But the proposition did not direct employers to accommodate medical marijuana users or prohibit discrimination based on its use. In 2008, the California Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications Inc. also ruled that employers had a lawful right to refuse employment to individuals who failed drug tests, even if test results stemmed from authorized medical marijuana use under the proposition. The court further ruled that disability claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) did not require employers to permit marijuana use as a reasonable disability accommodation.
In 2016, Proposition 64 legalized recreational marijuana in California. However, the proposition failed to address employment laws, employment discrimination based on marijuana use, or drug testing regulations. Instead, it explicitly declared that public and private employers could enforce their own workplace marijuana policies. The bill also emphasized that it did not modify an employer’s right to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace or to establish policies prohibiting employee marijuana use generally.
What Are California’s Laws About Medical Cannabis During Work After AB 2188?
AB 2188 will protect workplace marijuana usage in two ways. First, the bill bans employers from discriminating against employees who use marijuana outside work premises. Second, it emphasizes that non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites found in urine drug screens only confirm recent cannabis consumption, not impairment. While AB 2188 does not ban or eliminate drug tests that detect marijuana, it emphasizes that employers can rely on other scientifically valid drug screening methods to identify impairment or active THC levels.
Essentially, AB 2188 incorporates FEHA protections against discrimination. It treats off-duty marijuana usage away from the workplace like other protected characteristics, such as race, sex, religion, and disability. Moreover, employees working for companies with more than five employees who experience discrimination based on their marijuana use can file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department.
AB 2188 Exceptions
While AB 2188 does not explicitly address using medical marijuana during work, it does not allow employees to possess, use, or be directly under the influence of cannabis on the job. Nor does it affect an employer’s rights and obligations to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace as outlined in California Health and Safety Code § 11362.45.
Additionally, AB 2188 exempts employees in the building and construction trades. Nor does the bill apply to positions requiring a federal government background check or security clearance. Furthermore, the bill explicitly states that it does not override state or federal laws requiring drug testing for controlled substances. This includes testing as a condition of employment, receiving federal funding or licensing-related benefits, or engaging in a federal contract.
Are There Any Accommodations for Medical Cannabis Use During Work?
While employers can prohibit the use of medical marijuana during work hours, they are encouraged to compromise with employees who rely on medical cannabis. This involves discussing potential accommodations that may allow employees to use their medication outside of work hours or on breaks. Employers can also explore alternative options, such as adjusting work schedules, allowing non-smoking forms of medical cannabis, or providing designated areas for medical marijuana use during breaks.
Employees who rely on medical cannabis should also communicate openly with their employers about their medical needs and explore potential accommodations. Open communication and legal guidance can help employees and employers find solutions that balance medical needs with workplace requirements while complying with state and federal laws.
Bibiyan Law Group, PC, Can Help
If your employer holds your medical marijuana use against you, or you have questions about California’s laws regarding medical marijuana use in the workplace, contact the Bibiyan Law Group, PC. We can help you understand the terms of your employment and assist you and your employer in finding just solutions. We will fight for you, and we work tirelessly to achieve results you can feel good about.
Our ultimate mission is to safeguard employees’ rights. Call us at 310-438-5555, and let us explain how we can help protect yours.