Assembly Bill 1256 solves the issue around the lack of protections for cannabis consumers who want to enjoy it off the clock without risking their career.
While there had been a lot of confusion over the last few years, legal cannabis in California never interfered with drug-free workplace obligations. But AB 1256 would clarify the circumstances around factoring in THC during the hiring process or workplace testing when you’re not facing federal mandates.
“This bill would prohibit an employer from discriminating against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment because a drug screening test has found the person to have tetrahydrocannabinol in their urine,” the description reads.
But it still leaves a lot of room for interpretation. There are exemptions for Department of Transportation mandated things and other safety-sensitive positions regardless of if people can drink beer off the clock in those gigs. But the next part is where it got a little more tricky to follow.
“The bill would exempt from its provisions an employer that is required to conduct testing for tetrahydrocannabinol by federal law or regulations, or that would lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit for failing to conduct testing for tetrahydrocannabinol. The bill would also exempt employees in the building and construction trades,” the bill reads.
Also, the bill would allow people who have been fired for off-the-clock cannabinoids to sue their employer.
One thing that caught our eye was the section that noted companies “that would lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit for failing to conduct testing for tetrahydrocannabinol” would have an exemption. We asked California NORML if lower health insurance premiums associated with a drug-free workplace might provide a catchall?
“There have been insurance questions raised by the building trades organizations; however, the phrase you mention will likely be tied to federal requirements,” CANORML’s Deputy Director Ellen Komp told L.A. Weekly. “We are expecting revisions to the language following meetings with business and labor groups, etc. Some uncorrected language was introduced.”
Another clarifying correction to be made to the bill will make it clear it’s talking about non-psychoactive cannabinoids in testing since they have no correlation with impairment. It’s the stuff that hangs around in your system after you already get high.
“Our intent is to end employment discrimination based on testing for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in urine, hair or bodily fluids for both recreational and medical cannabis users while allowing employers to maintain a safe workplace by disallowing cannabis use or intoxication on the job,” Komp said.
National NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano has been tracking the workplace drug testing issue from a consumer advocacy angle for years. “Data consistently shows that those who consume cannabis while away from the job are at no greater risk for occupational accidents or injuries and, therefore, they should not be singled out and discriminated against solely for this activity,” he told L.A. Weekly.
Armentano went on to speak on the scientific arguments supporting the idea that drug testing leads to a safer working environment, and just how empty those arguments are.
“Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace is not now, nor has it ever been, an evidence-based policy,” Armentano said. “Rather, these discriminatory practices are a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980’s ‘war on drugs.’ But times have changed, attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.”
As PBS noted in 2017, America spends north of $8 billion a year on urine testing.