Laws protecting California workers who use marijuana take effect soon

Starting Jan. 1, employers in California will not be able to discriminate against hiring an employee or fire an employee based on their marijuana use outside of work. 

Those new protections are thanks to an amendment to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act that was approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom back in 2022. The bill, Assembly Bill 2188, is the first in the state to provide some type of immunity for employees who use cannabis either recreationally or medically — both of which are legal in the state and have been for quite some time. 

Under the new law, employers can’t ask potential employees if they use marijuana, nor can they use drug-screening results against hiring them if they show evidence of marijuana use. It will also be illegal to penalize or terminate an employee if that employee is found using marijuana off the clock and away from the workplace. 

Employers can still restrict marijuana use on the job, however. And those who work or are applying to work a federal job in the state and require clearance from the U.S. Department of Defense can still be disciplined or denied employment for using marijuana outside of work since it is still illegal at the federal level. 

According to California’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Golden State will join Washington, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Montana and Rhode Island in its workplace protections for recreational marijuana use outside of the job. 

Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and over 20 states prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who use marijuana for medical purposes under various laws. 

California was the first state to legalize medicinal cannabis use when voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996. The state legalized recreational use in 2016.