Lawmakers have advanced two bills to the desk of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom that seek to expand the rights of cannabis consumers.

Senate Bill 302 expands existing law (The Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act a/k/a Ryan’s Law) so that older patients suffering from chronic diseases may legally access certain cannabis products in private hospitals and other eligible health care facilities.

Under the current law, only terminally ill patients may use cannabis in specified health care settings. The proposed legislation permits patients ages 65 or older to access cannabis products in instances where a physician has deemed such use to be appropriate.

Qualified patients may not inhale or vaporize herbal cannabis in health care settings, and health care staff are forbidden from administering cannabis products.

Lawmakers in both chambers unanimously passed the bill.

Senate Bill 700 makes it unlawful for employers to “request information from an applicant for employment relating to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis.”  The legislation expands upon worker protections initially passed into law in 2022 making “it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon the person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace” Once signed into law, both worker protection laws will take effect on January 1, 2024.

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano praised the pending policy changes, stating: “Neither prospective nor current employees should be discriminated against for their off-the-job consumption of cannabis. Employees who use cannabis in their off-hours are no less productive than their peers and they do not possess any elevated occupational safety risk. Workers should have the same right to use cannabis as they have to use other legal substances while they are off the job.”

In recent years, numerous states — including Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, and Washington — have passed legislation limiting the ability of employers to either refuse to hire and/or fire workers based solely upon their off-hours cannabis use.

A third bill, AB 374, is also awaiting action from the Governor. It expands existing law so that cannabis consumption facilities can serve patrons “non-cannabis food or beverage products.” Establishments will also be permitted to hold live events, such as musical performances, on their premises and sell tickets to these events. 

Additional information regarding pending legislation is available from NORML’s Take Action Center or from California NORML. Information on workplace drug testing is available from NORML’s fact-sheet, ‘Marijuana Legalization and Impact on the Workplace.’

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