Do you smoke weed? Congratulations, you can be legally fired for doing so. This is one of marijuana legalization’s greatest blind spots, and something that a California lawmaker is working to fix. Like free speech, marijuana legalization has its limits. The First Amendment does not guarantee indemnification from the results of your free speech just as no state-level legalization law guarantees you, the cannabis user, any right to employment. In fact, quite the opposite.
Cannabis may be legal, but you consume it at your own risk, because in most places in America, cannabis consumption is grounds for immediate termination from your job. State and federal drug-free workplace laws underpin this reality, and courts have upheld that these laws do allow employers the “right” to fire their people for smoking weed, and to deny employment solely for cannabis use.
In 11 states, however, there are laws forbidding employers from firing workers solely for being medical-marijuana patients, but only two protect employees from termination if they test positive for cannabis — and that’s only if they’re patients.
In the 39 other states, including in cannabis-laden Colorado, if you were outed publicly as a marijuana user, you stand to lose your livelihood.
Put another way: In a country without much of a social safety net, and where “human rights” such as housing, healthcare and food are often available only for people earning a steady income, marijuana use jeopardizes access to the tools of life.
There’s no solution for this forthcoming for all cannabis users. However, medical marijuana users in California might soon see legal protections, if a bill introduced this week in the California Legislature becomes law.
Introduced Thursday by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), AB 2609 would prohibit employers from terminating workers solely based on “their status as medical marijuana patients” or on a drug test that