California governor signs employment discrimination bill protecting after-work cannabis use

drug test photo
drug test photo RapidEye/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Sunday signed into law a bill that adds California to the list of states that do not allow employers to penalize employees who smoke marijuana "off the job and away from the workplace," the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to Assembly Bill 2188, sponsored by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), the new law will restrict employers from basing employment decisions on a drug test that indicates the presence of "nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites" in an employee's hair or urine.

After using cannabis, the cannabinoid responsible for causing mind-altering effects, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can remain in the body for several weeks. Those metabolites do not indicate that the person is presently intoxicated but rather that they have recently consumed cannabis.

Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of cannabis advocacy group NORML, responded to the news, saying, "Workers should have the same right to use cannabis as to use other legal substances off the job."

Exceptions to the law include people working construction jobs and applying for or being employed in a role requiring a federal background clearance. Employers are still allowed to require drug tests as a prerequisite for employment, so long as the drug tests "do not screen for nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites."

Newsom signed nine other cannabis policy bills along with the employment discrimination bill. Other policy changes include sealing prior cannabis-related criminal convictions and a new interstate cannabis business transactions process.

The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

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