Proposed Bill in California Could Put an end to Workplace Drug Screenings

Written by Rita Thompson

Photo by Christie Ciberey

Do a simple Google search for ways to pass a drug screening for work, and you’re likely to drown in information. Detox drinks, synthetic urine, unappealing diets—we’ve all been there. A new bill proposed in California, however, could put an end to unfair discrimination of legal consumers.

Current Laws

Adult-use cannabis has been legal in California laws since 2016. However, under state law, employers can require their staff to be drug-free, and are therefore allowed to fire those who are not. Further, California employers have no duty to accommodate medical cannabis use in the workplace. 

According to a report by Quest Diagnostics, the rate of positive workforce drug tests hit a 14-year high in 2018. Positivity rates in the overall U.S. workforce climbed to their highest level since 2004 (4.5%).

For instance, in 2019 alone, 813 prison guard applicants were disqualified for positive drug testing. 

The report also found more than 3% of California employees and job applicants tested positive for cannabis, “coming in higher than the national average of 2.8% of workers,” according to KSBY News.

The Proposed Bill

California Assemblyman, Rob Bonta, D-CA, proposed a new bill in light of these findings.

The bill would require employers to accommodate applicants and employees who use cannabis for medical purposes.

“To be discriminated against by your employer because of the type of medicine you use is both inhuman and wrong,” Bonta explained to the Los Angeles Times. “Medical cannabis, as recommended by a doctor, should be given a similar reasonable accommodation as all prescription drugs.” 

While many consider the current laws unnecessary and unfair, others support it.

Todd Mitchell, co-owner of Seaweed, a cannabis dispensary in Lompoc, CA explained the effect work-force drug screenings can have on potential employees to KSBY News. “They chose not to utilize the medication and go to the other more socially-accepted medications, even opioids, during a time of employment or application. So I think that is the detriment.”  

Anti-cannabis advocates, however, strongly believe the tests are necessary.

California resident, Scott Chipman, thinks ease in testing would lead to an increase in workplace injuries. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse study on postal workers, researchers found that employees who tested positive for cannabis use on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55% more industrial accidents. There was also 85% more injuries, and 75% more absenteeism than those who tested negative. 

The proposed bill would not protect safety workers, such as pilots and police officers. 

What to Expect

Currently, 16 other states—including Arizona, New York, Utah, and Illinois—already have similar laws in place. In California, however, lawmakers are still deciding on the change. So, stay tuned to the Emerald for updates. 

Emerald contributor since June 2019

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