New Bill Seeks to Protect Pot Patients’ Employment

There is a new effort in Sacramento,
California to protect the rights of medical cannabis patients when it comes to
using cannabis off the clock.

The push comes in the form of AB 2355, a bill authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta that would prevent employers from discriminating against medical cannabis patients in the hiring process. The bill would accomplish this by modifying the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Employers would be required to provide “reasonable accommodations” to staff with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical cannabis.

But it certainly won’t be a cloudy
free-for-all for anyone with a doctor’s note. Patients won’t actually be
allowed to use marijuana on the job. There are also other provisions to exempt
companies that have to follow federal guidelines when it comes to testing
workforces in safety-sensitive positions, like pilots.

“Patients who are able to work should have
that right to not be discriminated for using medical cannabis, as prescribed by
a physician,” Bonta noted when filing the bill in February. “These are patients
who need their medicine and there is no reason why cannabis, when used for
medical purposes outside the workplace and work time, should not be treated in
a similar way to any other prescribed medication.”

Advocates of the bill took to the California
State Capitol to advocate for the bill this week, at the same time they
demonstrated prospective cannabis impairment testing to lawmakers and others in
attendance. The testing was conducted on the AlertMeter performance testing
system. The system conducts a 60-second test of cognitive ability on a
smartphone or tablet.

It’s not just some random tech being pushed by
the pro-cannabis crowd, AlertMeter’s development was funded in part by the
National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety and the National
Institutes of Health and has a ton of scientific data backing its methodology.

Part of the idea is with things like
AlertMeter is that supervisors will have a much more comprehensive idea about
someone’s cognitive ability in any given moment than they would have simply by
referencing the number of cannabis metabolites in their urine weeks after
getting high.

Advocates noted that 19 other states already protect the rights of medical cannabis users who are in the workforce and pointed to recent court cases in six states that affirmed the rights of workers.

The battle to protect patients’ rights has existed since the earliest days of the implementation of Proposition 215 that legalized medical cannabis in California in 1996. In the 2000s Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed an effort that would have protected patients. Advocates also noted when Proposition 64 passed in 2016 it specifically allowed employers to continue to discriminate against their workers’ off-the-clock marijuana use.

California NORML notes the topic of getting fired from work is one of the most frequent queries they get.

“As we feared, one of the most frequently asked questions we have been getting since Prop. 64 passed legalizing adult marijuana use in California is, “Am I now protected against drug testing on my job?”

Cal NORML Deputy Director Ellen Komp told Cannabis Now the day at the state capitol went very well.

“Lots of stakeholders turned up to see the technology and ask questions,” Komp said.

Unfortunately for advocates, the global drug screening industry has big bucks to spend on delaying the pace of change in California and beyond. According to estimates released last summer, The Global Drug Screening Market is expected to be worth more than $9.50 Billion by 2024 at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5% in the given forecast period.

Even as states come around on protecting off
the clock cannabis use, the drug screening industry will be boosted by
developing economies coming online.

According to a survey of 741 hiring managers and 262 employees by SimplyHired.com, 46% of respondents were drug tested in their current role. Nearly 75% thought testing positive for marijuana should not lead to automatic termination. The survey also found 75% of hiring managers would fire someone for marijuana use but only 17% would terminate an employee for off-the-clock use.

TELL US, have you ever been penalized for off-the-clock
cannabis use?

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