California Expands Protections for Employees Who Use Recreational Cannabis

October 25, 2023

Effective Jan. 1, 2024, California employers may not inquire about employees’ prior use of cannabis, even if the employer learns of that prior use from an employee’s criminal history.

On Oct. 7, 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law, amending the Fair Employment and Housing Act, to make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against job applicants and employees based on the person’s prior use of cannabis. Previously, Newsom signed a bill on Sept. 18, 2022, also set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024, to restrict employers from using traditional drug tests to test for cannabis use.

The new law not only prohibits employers from requesting information from applicants or employees about their prior use of cannabis, but it also precludes employers from considering such information revealed during a criminal history background check. This law applies to almost all private employers, employees and applicants. Businesses should review their policies relevant to hiring, termination and discipline to ensure compliance with the upcoming new law.

For questions about these changes, contact the authors of this article or another member of the McGuireWoods labor and employment team or cannabis, hemp and CBD team.