California, and All Cannabis States, Must Fight for Employee Rights
The California Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to Proposition 19, the Golden State’s 2010 legalization attempt, sent a signal loud and clear to cannabis law reformers to avoid angering power business lobbying groups. All of the successful legalization laws passed in 2012, 2014 and 2016, including California’s own Proposition 64, made sure to avoid the extreme ire of the respective state’s drug free workplace policies. Erika Frank, the vice president of the California Chamber of Commerce wrote the piece, “Proposition 64 Stays Out of the Workplace,” stating:
Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, legalizes the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years old and over, imposes a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales and establishes a regulatory framework for the sale of marijuana.
The provisions related to legalizing marijuana and workplace protections took effect November 9, the day after the election.
But what about smoking weed at work? When it comes to the workplace, California employers can take a deep breath of fresh air, because Proposition 64 intends to maintain the status quo for employers seeking to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace.
In other words, employer policies related to drug possession, use and impairment as well as testing should not be compromised with the legalization of marijuana use under Proposition 64.
Of course, cannabis legalization supporters don’t advocate that employees be allowed to be impaired on the job, and drafters of future legalization laws should continue to make the (wise) political decision to maintain the status quo on employee rights to use cannabis. However, drug testing policies that prohibits adults’ ability to responsibly use cannabis on their free time, when it doesn’t impact their job performance in any way, should eventually be discontinued. The cannabis industry and reform advocates need to flex their increasing political muscle to enact legislative fixes, if necessary.
The Los Angeles Times reported:
Employment lawyers say most companies they’ve spoken with plan to maintain their current drug screening procedures, which prohibit cannabis.
“The problem that California employers will have … is you have a state law that allows uses for recreational purposes, but of course you still have the federal law that makes it illegal,” said Michael Kalt, partner at law firm Wilson Turner Kosmo and government affairs director for the state council of the Society for Human Resource Management organization.
Though it’s unlikely that all companies will eliminate drug policies, legal experts and advocates say loosened drug screening for marijuana is already happening in some industries.
“Certainly in California, there’s a recognition in some sectors that there are a lot of marijuana users … who are highly valued employees,” said Tamar Todd of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Employers have learned you’re going to really diminish your work pool if you toss those people aside [whose] job performance is not impacted” by cannabis use off the job.
At the International Cannabis Business Conference, we understand the importance of political activism in promoting both prosperity for the cannabis industry and freedom for the cannabis community. Yes, owners, professionals and entrepreneurs deserve to be well compensated for their labor and innovative ideas, but we also need to remember that the industry is built upon the foundation of freedom, both for patients and and non-patients alike.
After legalization, industry participants and advocates need to continue to work together to ensure that cannabis laws improve in all facets of our lives. Yes, keeping people out of prison and providing safe access to patients, need to remain in the forefront, but employee and consumer rights need to be improved as well. Please join us at our upcoming conference in San Francisco on February 17th, where our speakers and panelists will help you thrive in cannabis commerce, but will also stress the importance to continue to fight for freedom and equality for the cannabis community.