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New CA Law: Medical Cannabis Users Get Job Protection from CA Assembly Bill

420 FILE–On Wednesday, the CA Assembly Labor and Employment Committee approved a bill to end employment discrimination against workers who use medical cannabis to treat a disability or medical condition.

The Medical Cannabis Worker Protections Act, AB 2069 by Asm. Rob Bonta (Oakland), would treat medical cannabis in the same way that current law treats prescription opiates and other drugs, by according it “reasonable accommodation” under the state Fair Employment and Housing Act. The bill exempts employers who are subject to federal regulations, such as the transportation industry, and further disallows any impairment on the job during hours of employment.

Under present FEHA law, employees who use opiates and other prescription drugs—but not medical cannabis—may ask to be excused from positive drug tests if their employer determines that such use doesn’t impair workplace safety or the ability to do their job.  As a result, many workers are allowed to use RX opiates, tranquilizers, sleeping aids, and other drugs, but are not free to use medical cannabis, even though it is safer, less addictive and often more effective.

AB 2069 is cosponsored by California NORML, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), all of whom have heard innumerable complaints from workers who have been fired or denied jobs due to medical cannabis use despite an excellent employment record.  Other supporters include AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), CELA (California Employment Lawyers Association), BALIF (Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom), CCBA (The California Conference of Bar Assns.), the Hispanic and Black chambers of commerce, CMG Caliva, Supernova Woman, Americans for Safe Access, and the Drug Policy Alliance.

In presenting the bill, Asm. Bonta noted that twelve other states already have laws protecting workers’ rights to medical cannabis.  “California is often on the cutting edge. Here we’re not,” he remarked.  AB 2069 would reverse a California Supreme Court ruling, Ross v RagingWire, which determined that  Prop 215 does not protect employment rights. In 2008, the legislature passed a bill by then-Asm. Mark Leno to reverse the decision, but it was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Testifying in favor of AB 2069,  labor attorney Alan Crowley noted that FEHA’s “reasonable accommodation” provisions give employers wide latitude to disallow drug use that would impair workplace safety.  Workers are obliged to notify their employers of their drug use beforehand in order to qualify for “reasonable accommodation,” and even then employers can decide that such use makes them unfit for the job.

Veterans’ advocate and medical cannabis patient Ryan Miller testified about how he had been locked into a low-level blue collar job because of drug testing after he returned home from military service, and urged the committee to pass AB 2069 “if it is serious about economic empowerment of vets.”

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Dale Giegringer on City Watch LA

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Published: April 26, 2018

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