California Bill To Bar Occupational Urine and Hair Drug Testing for Cannabis Advances

A bill that would provide additional protections for workers in California who use cannabis around the clock is moving forward and could soon go to the Senate. The bill would outlaw workplace discrimination by employers based on urine or hair tests, which detect only inactive metabolites of THC, in most cases.

Only urine or hair tests can detect inactive metabolites of THC days or weeks later, making them a poor predictor of impairment — or even recent use. The bill would still allow the use of oral swabs or computerized proficiency testing — which is actually a more reliable indicator of recent use or impairment.

While Assembly Bill 2188 would protect California workers who smoke 24 hours a day from inaccurate drug testing formats, it would still allow an employer to take action against workers who are impaired during work hours. Of course, there are also exceptions for federal employees and construction workers.

The bill is supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the California Nurses Association, the CA Board of Registered Nursing and the UDW/AFSCME Local 3930. In addition, from the California Employment Lawyers Association, United Cannabis Business Association, Cannabis Equity Policy Council, Americans for Safe Access and the California Cannabis Industry Association also support the bill.

Employers can’t test for THC – only THC metabolites, the waste product of THC that is examined in urine tests and hair tests. Urine tests are not a reliable indicator of impairment based on THC metabolites, nor are they of value to employers who may have greater concerns, such as alcoholism or opioid abuse.

“This whole piss-testing regime is primarily the result of government fraud,” Dale Gieringer, director of California’s NORML, told the High Times. “There has never been good evidence that pee testing, particularly looking for metabolites, had anything to do with public safety.”

It’s nothing more than a holdover from the Reagan-era Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, which broke out at the height of the “Just Say No” craze.

Gieringer continues: “There has never been an FDA study that has proven this to be true. I mean, if I had a new drug or medical device, I would say, ‘If you give this to your employees, they will have fewer accidents and they will be more reliable and better employees.’ If I had such a medical device or drug, the FDA would require me to conduct controlled, double-blind clinical trials to prove this was the case.”

California has a chance to catch up with other states that protect off-the-job labor rights for cannabis users this year with a California NORML-sponsored bill, AB 2188 (Quirk). Read more and trade: https://t.co/yzJBfbp3US

— California NORML (@CaliforniaNORML) August 4, 2022

“This has never been done for urine testing. It was basically a scam by former Reagan drug officials who – after leaving the government – went into the urine testing business and generally had good connections with the government, who somehow decided it would be profitable to require these tests long ago Time – late 80s. And so we just put an end to this scam.”

California’s NORML issued a press release urging Californians to contact their senators. “Scientific studies have not shown that urine testing is effective in preventing accidents at work. Numerous studies have shown that workers who test positive for metabolites do not have a higher risk of accidents at work.”

“Ironically, under current drug testing regulations, workers are allowed to use addictive opiates for medical purposes, but are prohibited from using medicinal cannabis that has been shown to reduce opiate use,” Gieringer continued.

The California Assembly approved the bill, as did the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committees, and the bill was assigned to the suspense file for appropriations.

If the bill is passed at a committee hearing on Aug. 11, it will move to the Senate for a vote. California NORML is asking residents to write a letter to their Senator in support of AB 2188.

“Twenty-one states currently have laws protecting the labor rights of medicinal cannabis users, and five states (Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Montana, and Connecticut) and several cities (New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Kansas City, MO, Rochester, NY and Richmond, VA) protect the labor rights of recreational cannabis users,” added Ellen Komp, associate director of Cal NORML. “California, a world leader in progressive causes, still has no protections for its workers who use cannabis. It is high time to change that and protect workers in California.”

California could be next on the list to provide protections for employees who use cannabis around the clock.

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