A California Assembly committee has approved a Senate-passed bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about prior marijuana use. About a month after the legislation from Sen. Steven Bradford (D) advanced through the Senate, the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the measure in an 8-2 vote on Wednesday. It previously cleared the Labor and
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A California Assembly committee has approved a Senate-passed bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about prior marijuana use.
About a month after the legislation from Sen. Steven Bradford (D) advanced through the Senate, the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the measure in an 8-2 vote on Wednesday. It previously cleared the Labor and Employment Committee last week and now heads to the Appropriations Committee before potentially moving to the floor.
The bill would build on existing employment protections enacted last session that bar employers from penalizing most workers for using cannabis in compliance with state law off the job.
“It is unlawful for an employer to request information from an applicant for employment relating to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis,” the bill text says.
Current law as enacted last year says that it is unlawful for employers “to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalizing a person, if the discrimination is based upon” off-duty marijuana use or drug tests that reveal cannabinoid metabolites.
There are exceptions to the policy for workers “in the building and construction trades,” as well as those that require federal background checks and security clearances.
“Some employers continue to employ zero tolerance policies on cannabis use and ask applicants whether they have used cannabis recreationally prior to employment,” Bradford said at Wednesday’s hearing. “This practice can not only dissuade candidates from applying for these positions, but also leads to situations in which individuals respond dishonestly to get a job. Many are prevented from moving further in the application process simply for using cannabis in a legal and responsible manner.”
If the bill that’s advancing this session is ultimately sent to the governor and signed, it would take effect January 1, 2024. That’s also the effective date of the earlier cannabis employment protections legislation that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed last year.
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Cannabis-related employment policies have been a major topic across the country amid the marijuana legalization movement.
For example, Michigan officials recently proposed ending pre-employment drug testing for marijuana for most government job applicants, while also giving people who’ve already been penalized over positive THC tests an opportunity to have the sanction retroactively rescinded.
In May, the governor of Washington State signed a bill into law that will protect workers from facing employment discrimination during the hiring process over their lawful use of marijuana.
That means Washington has joined Nevada in prohibiting discrimination against job applicants for testing positive for marijuana. New York also provides broader employment protections for adults who legally use cannabis during off-hours and away from work.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently finalized a rule to amend its drug testing policy in a way that could have significant implications for truckers, commercial drivers, pilots and other federally regulated transit workers who use marijuana off the job.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has updated its employment policy to make it so applicants who’ve grown, manufactured or sold marijuana in compliance with state laws while serving in a “position of public responsibility” will no longer be automatically disqualified—whereas those who did so in violation of state cannabis policies won’t be considered.
The Secret Service also recently relaxed restrictions on prior marijuana use by prospective agents.
Late last year, draft documents obtained by Marijuana Moment showed that the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was proposing to replace a series of job application forms for prospective workers in a way that would treat past cannabis use much more leniently than under current policy.
The Biden administration instituted a policy in 2021 authorizing waivers to be granted to certain workers who admit to prior marijuana use, but certain lawmakers have pushed for additional reform.
For example, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said at a congressional hearing on marijuana legalization last year that he intended to file a bill aimed at protecting federal workers from being denied security clearances over marijuana.
Last year, the nation’s largest union representing federal employees adopted a resolution in support of marijuana legalization and calling for an end to policies that penalize federal workers who use cannabis responsibly while they’re off the clock in states where it is legal.
The director of national intelligence (DNI) said in 2021 that federal employers shouldn’t outright reject security clearance applicants over past use and should use discretion when it comes to those with cannabis investments in their stock portfolios.
A recent survey found that 30 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 30 have either declined to apply or withdrawn applications for federal jobs because of strict marijuana policies required for security clearances.
Back in California, an Assembly committee recently approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize marijuana cafes, allowing dispensaries to offer non-cannabis food and drinks at their location if they receive local approval. The measure is largely consistent with a separate proposal to authorize cannabis cafes that passed on the Assembly floor earlier this session.
Also, state marijuana regulators announced last month that they have awarded $4.1 million to cities and counties across the state to support local cannabis business licensing programs working to address unmet consumer demand and help curb the illicit market.
The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) separately announced in May that the state has awarded more than $50 million in marijuana tax-funded community reinvestment grants.
DCC also recently awarded nearly $20 million in research grants, funded by marijuana tax revenue, to 16 academic institutions to carry out studies into cannabis—including novel cannabinoids like delta-8 THC and the genetics of “legacy” strains from the state.
California is additionally making moves to expand its marijuana market beyond the state’s borders, with regulators seeking a formal opinion from the state attorney general’s office on whether allowing interstate marijuana commerce would put the state at “significant risk” of federal enforcement action.
The request for guidance from DCC is a key step that could eventually trigger a law that the governor signed last year, empowering him to enter into agreements with other legal states to import and export marijuana products.
Separately, last month, an Assembly committee approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize the possession and facilitated use of certain psychedelics.
Meanwhile, a poll published last month found that Californians’ supports for legalizing marijuana is now even higher than when they approved the reform at the ballot in 2016—and a solid majority of voters also want cannabis retailers to be operating in their own neighborhoods.
California courts have sealed, resentenced or dismissed about 90 percent of eligible marijuana convictions for activity that was legalized under a 2016 voter-approved initiative, a new report from the state attorney general’s office shows.
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.