California Bill Would Outlaw Most Employment Cannabis Drug Tests, Oregon Should Follow Suit

The cannabis community today occupies a unique place in our society. We can celebrate being at an apex of the legalization movement with more than a dozen states, a few territories, and our nation’s capitol with legal cannabis, along with more than 30 states allowing medicinal use. All of the success at the state level propelled the United States House of Representatives to vote to end federal cannabis prohibition with the MORE Act last year, with hopes that an even better version of the legalization bill, with important equity provisions will pass this year. New Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that legalization is a part of the Democratic Party’s racial justice platform, President Joe Biden improved upon his pro-Drug War history announcing his support for decriminalization, and a supermajority of Americans now support sweeping cannabis prohibition into the dustbin of history where it belongs. The mainstreaming of cannabis has gone far beyond political beliefs, with the substance garnering more and more positive cultural visibility as more people are coming out of the “cannabis closet.”

Still there are still too many inequalities that exist for the industry and those that utilize cannabis. While the lack of banking access hurts state-regulated businesses and their vendors, those that choose to utilize cannabis still face discrimination in employment practices. While everyone, save for the most rabid Reefer Madness prohibitionists, understand that cannabis is one of the safest and least addictive drugs one may use, it is the most likely substance to show up on an employment drug test because the inactive metabolites of THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid, can still be present in a urine test a full month after usage, even though the user is not impaired whatsoever. Not only do drug tests unnecessarily harm cannabis consumers, they can actually push people into using more addictive and lethal substances as most flush out of your system within a couple of days. One California legislator is hoping to change this, introducing a bill that will ban most employment drug screenings for cannabis, as The Sacramento Bee reports:

A new bill in the Legislature aims to end a still common employment practice five years after Californians voted to legalize recreational cannabis in which private companies require can workers to test for marijuana use.

Assembly Bill 1256, introduced by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, is intended to prevent employers from using past evidence of marijuana use, such as a hair or urine test, as justification for discrimination against an employee, such as denying or terminating employment, according to Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, a sponsor of the bill.

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The bill’s current language carries several exemptions.

Employers under a federal mandate to test for THC, or that would lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit for failing to test for THC. Also exempted would be employers in the building and construction trades.

Oregon, and every state that has legalized cannabis, should follow suit. The cannabis industry has been deemed “essential” during the COVID pandemic, creating jobs and generating revenue during a perilous economic emergency. The consumers that are fueling record-breaking sales and tax revenue numbers shouldn’t be fearful of losing their jobs and employees shouldn’t be denied a relatively safe substance that is legal under their state’s law. It’s time for states to take can important move forward in treating the cannabis community equally under the law.

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