Workers who use marijuana in compliance with state law in California and Washington State will have new employment protections as of Monday.
Under two pieces of legislation signed into law in 2022 and 2023, California employers are now prohibited from asking job applicants about past cannabis use, and most are barred from penalizing employees over lawful use of marijuana outside of the job.
The Washington State law, meanwhile, will protect workers from facing employment discrimination during the hiring process over their lawful use of cannabis.
All three bills—signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), respectively—take effect on Monday, January 1.
With certain exceptions, “it is unlawful for an employer to request information from an applicant for employment relating to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis,” one of the California laws says.
The separate complementary legislation that Newsom signed in 2022 says it is unlawful for employers “to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalizing a person, if the discrimination is based upon” off-duty marijuana use or drug tests that reveal cannabinoid metabolites.
There are exceptions to the policy for workers “in the building and construction trades,” as well as those that require federal background checks and security clearances.
The Washington legislation is limited to job applicants. As Inslee noted before signing the measure in May, employers would still be able to maintain drug-free workplaces, or prohibit the use of cannabis by workers after they are hired.
The law “seeks to protect applicants from hiring discrimination if they use legal cannabis outside of work,” the governor had explained, adding that “there are exceptions” for certain industries.
For example, people can still be denied jobs over marijuana in the airline and aerospace industries. And the bill doesn’t provide protections for safety sensitive positions or those that require federal background checks or security clearance.
Cannabis-related employment policies have been a major topic across the country amid the marijuana legalization movement.
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As marijuana legalization began to take effect in Ohio last month, for example, Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb (D) announced that the city has “modernized” its drug testing policies for applicants for city jobs, eliminating “antiquated language around pre-employment marijuana testing that has previously hindered hiring efforts.”
A Washington, D.C. law went into effect in July that bans most private workplaces from firing or otherwise punishing employees for marijuana use during non-work hours.
Michigan officials approved changes to the state’s employment policy over the summer, making it so applicants for most government jobs will no longer be subject to pre-employment drug testing for marijuana.
New York also provides broader employment protections for adults who legally use cannabis during off-hours and away from work.