Among the many horrors buried in new laws coming to California this month, the legalization of “recreational” use of cannabis will likely end up on the top of the list, especially for those who worry about their company’s liability for work site deaths and injuries.

The change in policy regarding the private use of weed (there are 200+ synonyms for this drug) came courtesy of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act—approved by voters November 8, 2016, as Proposition 64, and effective January 1, 2018. You should know that state laws or propositions can’t override federal law, although that hasn’t stopped Sacramento on several topics recently. Pot is illegal in every state under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which bans the possession, use, buying, selling, or cultivating marijuana.

Prop. 64 said it does not amend, repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt “the rights and obligations of public and private employers to maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace or require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growth of marijuana in the workplace, or affect the ability of employers to have policies prohibiting the use of marijuana by employees and prospective employees, or prevent employers from complying with state or federal law.”

That mouthful sounds like a rock-solid guarantee, until you learn ten states so far have passed legislation that made it illegal for an employer to not hire or discriminate against either a job applicant or employee who uses “medical” cannabis, which, of course, is identical to the product being sold in the new reefer shops. The rule is, what the legislature creates, it can change.

ECA has been getting calls on this topic, particularly from union-signatory employers, who have to abide by the provisions in their current agreements…and every trade has different rules. This will likely be one of the subjects of negotiation during the important labor discussions coming in 2018.

Some Employers Are Affected

At the end of January, Cal/OSHA will start an “advisory committee” from the “regulated public” (pot shops) to consider the hazards of working in the business. Cal/OSHA identified a bunch, including: Exposure of employees to secondhand smoke at locoweed shops; driving commercial or personal vehicles after exposure; increased armed robberies at these all cash businesses; fire risks; and (this will sound familiar to contractors), repetitive strain injuries from bud-trimming.

The board must decide by October 1, 2018, about whether Cal/OSHAganja shop regulations are needed. Since it’s California, we are betting on more regulations.

By Wes May, ECA Executive Director