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California Bill To Bar Employment Urine and Hair Drug Tests for Cannabis Advances

The Senate could soon hear a bill to add protections for California employees who use cannabis continuously. Employers would be prohibited from discriminating against employees based on the results of hair or urine tests. These tests are only for inactive THC metabolites.

Urine or hair tests only can detect inactive metabolites of THC days or weeks later, making them a poor indicator of impairment—or even recent use. The bill would still allow the use of oral swab or computer-based performance tests—which It isIt is actually more reliable to indicate recent impairment or use.

Assembly Bill 2188 would provide protection for California workers who smoke while on duty from inaccuracies in drug testing. It would also allow the employer to make disciplinary actions against those who use drugs to induce impairment. Federal workers and workers in construction are exempted from the provisions.

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Service Employees International Union Union (SEIU), California Nurses Association (CA Board of Registered Nursing) and UDW/AFSCME Lokal 3930 all support this bill. California Employment Lawyers Association supports the bill, as does the United Cannabis Business Association (Canna Equity Policy Council), California Cannabis Industry Association, Americans for Safe Access, California Cannabis Industry Association and Cannabis Equity Policy Council.

Employers can’t test for THC—only for THC metabolites, the waste product of THC, which urine tests and hair tests look at. The THC metabolites aren’t a reliable way to detect impairment. Employers might also be concerned about other issues such as opioid addiction or alcoholism. 

“This whole piss-testing regime is really the result of government fraud in the first place,” California NORML Director Dale Gieringer tells Chronic News. “There was NeverThere was no evidence whatsoever that pissing testing had been successful, and in particular the search for metabolites. Everything to do with public safety.”

It’s nothing more than a remnant of the Reagan-era Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, which picked up amid the peak of “Just Say No” fever.

Gieringer continues, “There’s never been an FDA study to show that that’s true. I mean, if I had a new drug, or medical device, that I said, ‘If you give this to your employees, they will have fewer accidents, and they’ll be more reliable and better employees.’ If I had such a medical device, or drug, the FDA would require me to do doubleblind controlled clinical studies proving that that’s the case.”

“That was never, ever 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 were well-connected, in general, with the government, who sort of decided that it would be profitable to require these tests a long time ago—the late ‘80s. And so we’re just putting an end to that fraud.”

California NORML released a press release urging Californians reach out to state senators. “Scientific studies have failed to show that urine testing is effective at preventing workplace accidents. Numerous studies have found that workers who test positive for metabolites have no higher risk of workplace accidents.”

“Ironically, under current drug testing rules, workers may use addictive opiates for medical use, but are forbidden to use medical cannabis, which has been shown to reduce opiate use,” Gieringer continued.

California Assembly passed the bill along with the Senate Judiciary, Labor, and Appropriations suspense files.

The bill will then be moved to the Senate floor for approval if it is passed at the August 11 committee hearing. California NORML asks its residents to support AB2188 by writing a letter.

“Twenty-one states currently have laws protecting employment rights for medical cannabis users, and five states (Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Montana and Connecticut) plus several cities (New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Kansas City MO, Rochester NY and Richmond VA) protect recreational cannabis consumers’ employment rights,” added Cal NORML Deputy Director Ellen Komp. “California, a global leader in progressive causes, still has no protections for its workers who consume cannabis. It’s high time to change that and protect California’s workers.”

California might be next to add protections for workers who smoke cannabis at work.