Bill to Protect CA Pot Patients from Employment Discrimination Introduced

CA Bill Protecting PatientsWeed is legal here in California. And it’s been legal for medical use here since 1996. But that doesn’t stop employers from firing you for using it. Drug testing is an invasion of privacy. It’s also a way for employers to discriminate against workers. Despite the passage of the Compassionate Use Act and Proposition 64 patients continue to be denied employment or are terminated for testing positive for cannabis.

In fact in 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled in Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications that an employee could be terminated solely based on their status as a medical cannabis patient. This ruling called for the Legislature to clarify its intent for patient employee rights and is what AB 2069 seeks to do. However last year courts in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut all ruled that employers may not discriminate against employees for using medical cannabis.

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California Assemblymember Rob Bonta has followed suit. Today he introduced AB 2069 which prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their status as a medical cannabis patient or on the basis of a patient’s positive drug test for cannabis. The new bill provides worker protections to patients using cannabis outside of the workplace and not during work hours. It also exempts employers whose workers are in safety-sensitive positions that are subject to federal drug-testing mandates. The bill is co-authored by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers, Service Employees International Union, and California NORML.

“More than 20 years ago, Californians decided that sick patients should be allowed to have access to medical cannabis,” Bonta said in a press release we received today. “This includes adults fighting cancer and patients dealing with chronic pain. To be discriminated against by your employer because of the type of medicine you use is both inhumane and wrong.”

Jim Araby, Executive Director of UFCW Western States Council says, “AB 2069 is an important step forward for California workers who are cannabis patients. Our current laws put workers with a medical recommendation for cannabis in a difficult bind. California shouldn’t send workers the message that opioid use or going out on workers’ compensation is a better alternative than working safely under a doctor’s orders,”

“It’s time to stop treating cannabis patients like second-class citizens,” said Dale Gieringer, Executive Director of California NORML. “It’s absurd that employers let their workers use addictive prescription opiates, but not medical cannabis, given that cannabis is so much safer and often more effective for chronic pain.”

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation legalizing medical and/or adult cannabis use. However, only eleven states have employment protection laws in place. California is not one of those states. “Patients who are able to work should have the right to. These are patients who need their medicine and there is no reason why cannabis when used for medical purposes should not be treated just as any prescribed medication,” concluded Bonta.

Have you ever been forced to take a drug test? What did you use to pass it? Let us know in the comments section below.

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