A “Hotbox” Of Legal Issues: California’s Workplace Marijuana Laws

With Pennsylvania joining in last month, nearly half the country has laws permitting state residents to use marijuana for medical purposes, and some even permit recreational use. California led the movement when it passed the so-called “Compassionate Use Act” in 1996. At present, use and distribution of marijuana remain federal offenses.

As marijuana use for medical purposes has become much more prevalent in California, this is an excellent time for employers to fully assess their approach to ensuring compliance with California law, where the grass is not always greener.

The increasing accessibility of marijuana over the years, as well as its acceptance into mainstream culture, has led to serious misconceptions regarding its permissibility in the workplace. We offer here a few reminders to help clear up this this sometimes “hazy” area of California law, and we explore in detail whether employers can legally:

  • Weed out marijuana users in the job application process.
  • Conduct background checks to smoke out users.
  • Require drug testing and at what points they can do it.

Please continue to read this article at The Blunt Truth, Seyfarth Shaw's new forum to address the legal and practical implications of cannabis laws across the U.S. and their impacts on the business community.


Geoffrey Westbrook is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department of Seyfarth Shaw LLP's Sacramento Office. His practice is dedicated to advising and defending executives and managers in wage and hour class actions, high-stakes wrongful termination claims, and disability-related matters.

Beyond litigation, Geoffrey serves as a trusted advisor to employers on issues of background screening, workplace privacy, employment law training, and high-risk terminations. He guides managers through challenging state and federal compliance issues concerning worker classification, pay practices and leaves of absence. Mr. Westbrook often assists with sensitive internal investigations concerning employee misconduct.



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