RCRC has officially opposed Assembly Bill 2069 by Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). AB 2069 would generally prohibit employers from terminating or refusing to hire medicinal cannabis users, even if they fail a drug test.
Many municipal associations were deeply involved in developing the package of bills that ultimately became the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), and in close consultation with the drafters of Proposition 64. Both pieces of legislation included explicit provisions protecting employers’ right to maintain a drug-free workplace, and disclaiming any intention to interfere with employment decisions or relationships. These provisions were of critical importance to public and private employers, and were instrumental in the passage of legislative measures and the initiative. AB 2069 would effectively abrogate these provisions only a short time after they were enacted. Such rapid policy reversals may have the effect of discouraging stakeholders from engaging in good faith during the deliberation future legislation in this area, thereby ultimately hindering the progress of cannabis legalization.
Requiring government agencies and private businesses to hire and retain employees who test positive for cannabis, or otherwise accommodate employees’ cannabis usage, will have substantial negative consequences. Unlike alcoholic beverages, there is no generally-accepted empirical test for cannabis impairment, as required under AB 2069 before taking job action. Such difficulty in proving actual impairment will inevitably discourage employers from acting to remove employees from potentially hazardous positions, thereby endangering the employee, co-workers, and the public. Employers need the ability to take proactive measures before on-the-job impairment occurs – something AB 2069 would deny.
Similarly, allowing an employer to take job action if they can prove that "hiring the individual or failing to discharge the employee would cause the employer to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or regulations" will place many employers - particularly public agencies - in an untenable position. While federal law generally requires federal grantees (including most government entities) to maintain a drug-free workplace, it will often be difficult for the employer to prove that retaining a specific individual employee will directly cause the loss of federal benefits. AB 2069 would leave employers with general legal obligations to maintain safe and drug-free workplaces, but limit their ability to take the specific actions necessary to achieve those goals.
Mr. Smith’s joint local government opposition letter can be accessed here. Mr. Smith can be reached at (916) 447-4806.