The governor of California signed several marijuana-related bills into law, including one that ensures workers will not be penalized for using cannabis in their downtime.

The new legislation – AB 2188 – means it will be illegal for employers to take punitive action against workers for off-the-job marijuana use starting January 1, 2024. Employers can still take action against their employees if they come to work under the influence of cannabis though.

In particular, the new law prohibits employers from penalizing workers on the basis of drug test results using urine, blood, or hair, as traces of cannabis compounds can remain in these samples for weeks or even months after it was last consumed. Instead, employers need to use tests specifically for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active compound found in marijuana that causes impairment.

“No employee deserves to feel stigmatized and unsafe at work because of an outdated testing method. There are much more accurate, modern-day cannabis testing methods, like oral swabs, that are able to detect recent use and increase workplace safety,” said Jim Araby, campaign director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council.

The latest reform to California’s cannabis laws doesn’t, however, concern workers in the construction trade, nor does it override existing state and federal laws that require workers to take drug tests for particular roles, to receive federal funding, or to enter into a federal contract.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also signed a bill that seeks to expand medical cannabis access into law. The measure – SB 1186 – prohibits local jurisdictions from banning medical cannabis dispensaries and medical marijuana delivery services. Under the new law, which also takes effect on January 1, 2024, municipalities must allow at least one dispensary to operate.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Wiener, said the measure is necessary to amend Proposition 64, which legalized adult-use marijuana but allowed for localities to institute bans. Many jurisdictions in California have such bans on dispensaries in place, with one recent analysis indicating this has served to drive the illicit market in the state.

Other marijuana-related measures signed into law by Newsom include legislation to facilitate the sealing of past low-level marijuana criminal records and another that seeks to encourage interstate cannabis commerce.

“These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry,” Newsom said.

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