Medical marijuana bill passes Assembly

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, May 30, 2008 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

On Wednesday, May 21st, the California State Assembly reluctantly passed AB 2279 (Mark Leno, D-San Francisco).  The bill makes it illegal to consider an employee’s use of marijuana outside of the workplace when hiring, terminating or disciplining an employee.  Assemblymember Leno had originally presented the bill last week but did not have enough votes and the record was expunged. During Wednesday’s floor session the bill once again struggled to get the votes necessary to pass.  Eventually it did, 41 to 35.  Democrats Juan Arambula (Fresno), Lois Wolk (Davis) and Cathleen Galgiani (Tracy) voted against it.

AB 2279 would increase employers’ liability.  It requires employers to hire individuals even though they might test positive for the use of marijuana.  This would likely force employers to increase the oversight of these employees, adding an additional burden.  Proponents of the bill have argued that it does not limit the use of impairment tests on employees while at work, but those tests have not been shown to be accurate.

Employers have a legitimate interest in determining whether applicants are using illegal drugs.  It not only allows employers to comply with federal law but it also limits accidents and creates a safer workplace for all workers.  It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that no employee is endangered by the actions of another employee.  

CMTA believes that employers should be free to decide whether a frequent marijuana user poses an unacceptable risk at the workplace.

Recently, the California Supreme Court (in Ross v. Raging Wire Telecommunications, January 2008) reinforced the employer’s right in California to require pre-employment drug tests and take illegal drug use into consideration in making employment decisions.  The court also ruled that since marijuana is illegal under federal law, businesses have the right to fire anyone who tests positive for it.  Assemblymember Leno (the author of AB 2279) believes that the voters that passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 also intended to protect employment status for users of medical marijuana.  Nevertheless, the court found that nothing in the text or history of the Act showed intent to address rights and duties of employers and employees.

AB 2279 now heads to the Senate where it will likely be heard in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

Read more Safety & Health articles

Capitol updates archive 989898989