At times, an employee may face uncertainty around their workplace rights and protections as a cannabis user. Though societal views on cannabis have shifted dramatically with legalization measures in many states, employment discrimination remains an everyday reality for countless medicinal and recreational marijuana users.

At TONG LAW, we’ve seen the toll this discrimination takes on hardworking professionals across California. When adverse actions limit your ability to earn an income, the damage extends far beyond the individual.

Families struggle. People lose trust in systems meant to provide opportunity for all. You don’t have to handle this alone. Contact our California cannabis usage discrimination lawyer today to discuss your rights and options.

The Intersection of Cannabis Use and Workplace Rights

In recent years, California has been at the forefront of progressive drug policies meant to provide access to medicinal and recreational cannabis.

However, the state also has strong employer rights around drug testing and restricting employee use of federally illegal substances. This creates many gray areas for employees and uncertainty around what constitutes discrimination.

Employer Actions That Can Trigger Discrimination Claims

Under California law, certain categories receive protection from discrimination, including:

When employees use cannabis for documented medical purposes, they may fall under these protected categories. Discrimination claims often arise when:

  • Employees face discipline or termination due to a positive cannabis test
  • Employers refuse to adjust policies to accommodate medicinal cannabis use
  • Employers make hiring/firing choices based on perceptions that medicinal use impairs one’s ability to work

By thoroughly investigating the specifics behind employer actions, we aim to evaluate the merits of potential discrimination claims.

California Restricts Employment Discrimination for Off-Duty Cannabis Use

California has long been at the forefront of cannabis legalization, becoming the first state to permit medical marijuana in 1996. Now, with recreational cannabis use legal since 2016, California is breaking new ground in protecting workers’ rights to consume cannabis during their off-hours without fear of employment discrimination.

A new law, California Gov’t Code § 12954, which took effect in 2024, bars employers from taking adverse action against workers and job applicants merely for testing positive for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their system.

These metabolites indicate past cannabis use but provide no evidence of on-the-job impairment. The law targets traditional drug screening methods that test for these residual metabolites that can remain in the body for weeks after last use.

Rather than relying on such overbroad screens, the law encourages narrowly targeted impairment testing that provides direct evidence of diminished workplace capacity at the time of testing. California employers may also still test for psychoactive THC, which dissipates from the body faster and shows more recent usage.

Enforcing Workplace Rights for Cannabis Users

Once we uncover credible evidence to pursue a claim, TONG LAW leverages formal channels to hold employers accountable for discriminatory policies and actions related to cannabis.

The strategies we deploy to effectively enforce critical employee protections include:

  • Sending demand letters: Formally requesting policy changes or other remedies from employers before taking legal action often motivates them to cooperate rather than engage in expensive litigation.
  • Filing discrimination charges with state agencies: Administrative claims with the California Civil Rights Department can build the foundation for lawsuits when petitions for voluntary resolutions fail.
  • Pursuing litigation for damages: If necessary to obtain a fair remedy, our law firm handles cannabis discrimination lawsuits in state or federal courts. We fight to secure justice for employees wrongfully faced with loss of work and income.

With full legalization now expanding in many states beyond California, the number of employees using cannabis will only continue to grow. Until federal prohibition ends, conflicts will persist between progressive California laws allowing cannabis usage and outdated federal laws still classifying marijuana as an illegal Schedule I substance.

This creates gray areas for employees legally using cannabis under state law who can still face discrimination from federally regulated employers adhering to strict drug-free workplace policies. Our employment lawyers can clarify the intersections of state and federal cannabis laws and determine what discrimination claims may be available.

Let TONG LAW Help You Fight Cannabis Discrimination

If you face discrimination related to medicinal cannabis use or outside recreational cannabis use, don’t let employers disregard your rights without any consequence. Contact TONG LAW today to stand up for the fair treatment you deserve at work and beyond.