Nicole Rice

MFG Breaker bill threatens drug-free workplace policies

By Nicole Rice, Policy Director, Government Relations

Capitol Update, May 4, 2018

The MFG Breaker bill to accommodate medicinal cannabis users in the workplace continued its advance in the Legislature.  The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee approved AB 2069 in late April (Assembly Member Rob Bonta, D-Alameda) and sending the bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee where it will be heard on Wednesday, May 9th.  

As amended, the bill no longer seeks to make those who use cannabis for medical purposes a “protected class” under the state’s Federal Employment and House Act (like race, marital status or age).  Instead, it now requires employers to make a “reasonable accommodation” for persons who are qualified to use medicinal cannabis to treat a known disability or medical condition.  These changes do not lessen the risk of liability for manufacturers, nor do they restore the ability of businesses to ensure a drug-free work environment.

Existing state law, created in part through legislation authored by Assemblymember Bonta, clearly states that employers have the right to maintain a drug-free workplace within certain parameters.  And, while AB 2069 allows a manufacturer to terminate or take disciplinary action against an employee who is impaired at work, there is currently no objective and legally recognized test an employer can administer, or have administered by a testing company, to confirm impairment. Further, as long as marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which does not recognize the difference between medical and recreational use of cannabis, the legal complexities created by the tension between federal and state law will make this proposal that more challenging.

While several legislators (both Democrats and Republicans) on the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee asked questions about implementing this measure, the Committee ultimately voted for the bill and trusting the author to resolve the issues raised as the bill moves through the process.  CMTA remains opposed to this MFG Breaker bill based on concerns with how manufacturers can practically balance accommodating medicinal cannabis use given the safety-sensitive nature of their operations.

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