In recent years, California has emerged as a leader in progressive legislation, particularly concerning
cannabis use. The state has enacted new laws that represent a significant shift in employee rights
regarding cannabis consumption, reflecting the evolving landscape of cannabis legalization and its
Overview of the Law: The new California law, effective January 1, 2024, prohibits employers from
discriminating against employees based on their off-duty and off-premises cannabis use. This means
employment cannot be jeopardized solely based on cannabis consumption outside work hours and away
from the workplace, acknowledging the legal status of cannabis in California and aiming to align
employment practices with the state’s progressive stance on cannabis.
Implications for Drug Testing: A notable aspect of this law is its impact on drug testing policies.
Traditional drug tests, which detect cannabis metabolites long after the effects have worn off, have
raised concerns about their effectiveness in assessing impairment at work. The new legislation shifts the
focus from penalizing employees for positive cannabis tests to assessing actual impairment during work
hours, prompting a likely review and modification of drug testing policies across California.
Exceptions and Limitations: It’s critical to note that the law does not allow unrestricted cannabis use.
Certain job positions, especially those requiring federal compliance or involving safety-sensitive work,
are exempt from these protections. The law also prohibits cannabis use or possession during work hours
or on employer premises.
Impact on Workplace Policies: Employers in California are advised to revise their workplace policies to
comply with this new law. This includes updating drug testing protocols and ensuring HR practices do
not unfairly target or discriminate against employees who legally use cannabis. Training for management and HR personnel may be necessary to familiarize them with the nuances of this new legal
Further Developments: Senate Bill 700, also taking effect on January 1, 2024, expands worker
protections. It makes it unlawful for employers to inquire about an applicant’s past cannabis use or
discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any employment terms based on off-job cannabis
use. This bill complements the broader protections under AB 2188, which prohibits discrimination
against individuals who test positive for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites.
Conclusion: California’s new laws protecting cannabis-using employees mark a significant step towards
reconciling state law with changing societal attitudes towards cannabis. While providing essential
protection to workers, they also challenge employers to navigate these changes carefully. As the legal
landscape around cannabis continues to evolve, these laws could serve as a model for other states,
potentially leading to widespread changes in employer approaches to cannabis use among employees
across the country.
The Caputo Group, a boutique Human Resource outsourcing firm, provides bespoke solutions to all your
needs in Human Resources, Payroll Solutions, Benefits, Workers’ Compensation, Safety & Regulatory
Compliance. If you have questions about the new California law and how it will impact your workforce
and operations, please contact us.
The Caputo Group www.caputo-group.com
This blog post provides a general overview of the new California laws protecting cannabis-using
employees. It is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. For
specific legal inquiries or guidance, consulting a qualified attorney is recommended.