Five years after California legalized recreational cannabis, one state lawmaker has proposed a bill that would make pre-employment pot testing a thing of the past for the majority of job-seekers in the state.
If the legislation passes, most California workplaces would be prohibited from using evidence of past pot use, such as the results of hair and urine tests, to deny someone employment, or to fire them.
Critics of the current regulations, which allow for “suspicionless” drug tests, argue that such screening indicates only that a person has enjoyed weed at some point in the recent past and does not prove that they are actively high on THC. Assembly Bill 1256, introduced by Bay Area assemblyman Bill Quirk, would change all that—and open the doors for workers and applicants to sue employers who violate the new rules.
As stated in the proposed legislation, AB 1256 “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.”
Additionally, “This bill would authorize a person who has suffered discrimination in violation of the bill’s provisions to institute and prosecute in their own name and on their own behalf a civil action for specified relief.”
Some employers, however, would be exempt—including those in the building and construction trades, employers who are mandated by federal law to test for THC, and those who “would lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit” for failing to conduct such tests.
Dale Gieringer, the state coordinator of California NORML, says that existing employment laws addressing marijuana use defy fairness and common sense.
“Urine tests are like going through employees’ trash every week and looking around for empty beer cans or liquor bottles. And if you find some, the person must’ve been drunk on the job,” he tells KTLA.
“You’re allowed to do anything else legal off the job,” Gieringer adds. “You can drink, smoke and fire guns, and stuff like that, as long as it’s off the job. So we thought that cannabis should be treated the same way; and of course, drug testing detects use off the job.”
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