California Marijuana Legislation Will Not Change Employer Drug & Alcohol Programs

Submitted on Nov 23, 2016

California Marijuana Legislation Will Not Change Employer Drug & Alcohol Programs

The passage of recreational usage of marijuana by California voters on November 8, 2016 will not force employers to change there drug free testing programs. The new law specifically creates protection for employers to continue with or create new drug free workplace programs without having to accommodate for recreational or medical use of marijuana.

The new law stipulates in two sections that it will “Allow public and private employers to enact and enforce workplace policies pertaining to marijuana.” One of the sections is specifically dedicated to the rights of employers. Even without this stipulation, Federal Law still defines marijuana an illegal schedule I drug. Federal Drug Testing Programs, along with any State, County, or City employee will continue to be required to follow Federal Requirements.

Many of the voters that were in favor of the legislation have no idea what is in the new law. This confusion by voters has left employers with employees making assumptions about what they can and cannot do in the workplace. Employers are quickly making sure they are pro-active with awareness information that the passage of the California Law will NOT CHANGE the requirements of there Drug Free Workplaces. We are encouraging employers to distribute notices and include information in Safety Meetings as soon as possible. The law will not change your programs and you are not required to change or accommodate any marijuana usage, possession, sale, or other association as stipulated in your policy.

The two key portions for employers to note are in Section 3(r) and Section 4 – 11362.45(f). Section 3 specifically acknowledges that employers are allowed to enact and enforce workplace policies, while Section 4 gives a full explanation of the rights of employers and addresses any changes made to the California Health Safety Code. The section, in summary, says the new law will not affect the rights of employers.

Section 4 – 11362.45(f) states that the law will NOT amend, repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt: “The rights and obligations of public and private employers to maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace or require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growth of marijuana in the workplace, or affect the ability of employers to have policies prohibiting the use of marijuana by employees and prospective employees, or prevent employers from complying with state or federal law.”

Despite the confusion of many voters in favor of the law, employers are not required to accommodate any misinterpretation of the new law. However, in an effort to promote safety and a quality workforce, we are encouraging employers to continue to educate employees on the dangers of use and help employees to understand that conduct outside the workplace can have adverse consequences in the workplace based on their employers’ workplace policies.

A complete copy of California’s Marijuana Law can be found HERE. If you are interested in scheduling an employee awareness class as part of your next safety meeting or if you have any other questions, please contact us at 760-244-6886.