Medical Marijuana, Proposal in California to Address Workplace Protection


Prop 64 says YES to Marijuana But Doesn’t Address Workplace

In 2016 voters in California legalized the use of marijuana by passing proposition 64. This legislation allowed for use of the drug, while
at the same time preserving the right of employers to maintain a drug-fee working environment, and the ability to terminate employees
who tested positive for drug use. This includes those who use marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, according to Tamar Todd, who
lectures on marijuana at U.C. Berkeley, and is Vice Chair of the California Cannabis Advisory Committee,  “People can still be drug tested
and disciplined based on a positive result even if they are using in compliance with state law, not at work, and not impaired at work.”

Protecting Medical Use and Addressing Workplace Issues

Some argue that use of medical marijuana should be viewed in the same light as any other prescription medication, and that medicinal
users should not face discrimination in hiring or in termination practices. In response to these concerns, Assemblyman Rob Bonta
(D-Alameda), proposes a bill that would require employers to make accommodations for workers using medical marijuana. The new
bill would provide protections for job applicants and employees in non-safety sensitive positions. Airline pilots, truck drivers, and
police offices would be exempt as would employers with federal contractors which are required by law to be drug free environments.

Marijuana Use and Safety in the Workplace

Opponents of the bill argue that pubic safety implications of marijuana use may still not yet be fully known or understood.
The Los Angeles Times reports that positive drug testing of employees in non-safety sensitive positions in California jumped from 2.3% in 2015,
(one year before marijuana was legalized in California) to 3.1% in 2018 and that in 2014 the rate of positive test results nationwide hit a 14
year high. The National Institute on Drug Abuse asserts that postal workers who tested positive for marijuana had 55%
more industrial
accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% greater absenteeism compared to those who tested negatively.

Workers’ Compensation, To Pay or Not to Pay

According to a recent article published by Risk&Insurance, Marijuana impairment testing is also a factor that must be considered in
workers’ compensation. Injured workers using the drug may need to be tested for impairment before returning to work. Moreover,
as legalization of cannabis use becomes more expansive, the differences between state and federal regulations around products and
their use may lead to confusion for workers’ compensation payers. For now though, more states with legal access to medical marijuana
are ruling that workers compensation payers have to pay up for use of the drug.

Sources:
16 States Provide Workplace Protection for Medical Marijuana. Could California Be Next,
by Courtney DuChene, Risk&Insurance, Feb 2020

Legal Marijuana use still costs people jobs. A new California bill takes on the issue, by Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, Feb 2020

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