A growing marijuana plant. Photo from Pixabay.
Example of a growing marijuana plant, but not one involved in the case. Photo from Pixabay.

Los Angeles Councilwoman Nithya Raman introduced a resolution Tuesday to have the city support legislation that would prohibit employers in California from discriminating against potential and current employees if evidence of marijuana use is found in drug tests.

“California has long had a progressive stance on the consumption of cannabis — but it has fallen short in protecting its workers who use cannabis off the job,” Raman said. “Each day we neglect removing these outdated drug testing requirements is another day we are erecting roadblocks to ensuring a truly robust and equitable workforce.”

Cannabis was legalized for recreational use in California in 2016, but workers aren’t legally protected against punishment or bias based on testing positive for “nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites,” which can stay in a person’s system for many days after marijuana usage.

The resolution, if passed by the City Council, would show the city’s support for Assembly Bill 1256, which was introduced by Councilman Bill Quirk. If the bill becomes law, California would join 21 other states that protect employment rights for cannabis users and five states — along with New York City and Washington, D.C. — that protect recreational cannabis users’ employment rights.

In 2008, the state Legislature passed a bill to protect employees from discrimination if they use cannabis for medicinal purposes, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill.

“Urine and hair metabolite tests for marijuana wrongly discriminate against workers for off-the-job use that has no effect on job safety or performance. They detect inactive drug residues that stay in the system for days and weeks after use,” said Dale Gieringer, director of the California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“Employers who are concerned about on-the-job drug use can detect it more reliably with performance-based tests or oral screens that detect the active presence of THC,” Gieringer continued. “We urge the city of Los Angeles to support an end to the abusive, unnecessary, obnoxious, and discriminatory practice of urine testing for cannabis.”

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