As the landscape of cannabis legalization evolves across the United States, significant shifts in related employment laws are emerging. Notably, California and Washington have introduced pivotal changes to their marijuana drug testing policies, set to take effect in 2024. These changes reflect a broader societal shift in attitudes towards cannabis use and present a complex array of challenges and opportunities for employers. Understanding these changes is crucial for employers to ensure compliance with the law, maintain workplace safety, and adapt to the evolving legal and cultural landscape. Let’s explore these changes in detail, considering their implications for employers in California and Washington.

California’s Legislative Changes

AB 2188 and SB 700

  • Scope of Protection: AB 2188 and SB 700 in California focus on protecting employees from discrimination based on off-duty cannabis use. They restrict employers from making employment decisions based on tests for nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites, which do not indicate current impairment.
  • Testing for Impairment: The laws encourage tests detecting psychoactive THC, which is indicative of recent use and potential impairment.

Exemptions and Considerations

  • Exempt Sectors: Some sectors, like construction and roles requiring federal background checks, are exempt from these restrictions.
  • Adapting to Changes: Employers need to update their drug testing policies by January 1, 2024, considering new testing methods like oral fluid testing for THC.

Impact on Workplace Safety

  • Training for Recognition of Impairment: Training staff to identify signs of impairment is crucial in maintaining workplace safety in the absence of traditional marijuana testing.

Washington’s Regulatory Adjustments

Senate Bill 5123

  • Pre-Employment Focus: The bill targets pre-employment drug screening, prohibiting discrimination against applicants for off-duty cannabis use but does not limit testing for other controlled substances.
  • Employer Rights Preserved: Employers can still maintain a drug-free workplace and conduct drug testing under scientifically valid methods that focus on detecting psychoactive substances.

Protections and Exemptions

  • Protecting Employers: The law clarifies that employers are not restricted from maintaining safety standards and conducting drug testing for substances other than cannabis.
  • Exempt Positions: Certain positions, particularly those related to safety and federal regulations, are exempt from the new law.

Alternative Approaches

  • Oral Fluid Testing: Oral fluid testing is becoming a popular alternative, capable of detecting recent use of psychoactive substances, aligning more closely with impairment assessment.

Implications for Employers in Both States

Policy Revision and Compliance

  • Updating Drug Testing Policies: Employers must revise their drug testing policies to comply with the new laws, specifying permissible circumstances for drug testing and adopting new testing methods where applicable.

Addressing Safety Concerns

  • Safety-Sensitive Roles: Identifying safety-sensitive positions is crucial, especially in Washington. Employers should ensure these definitions are included in job descriptions.
  • Training on Impairment Recognition: Training staff to recognize signs of impairment is more important than ever.

Legal and Cultural Shifts

  • Navigating Legal Complexities: As this article is not to be considered legal advise, it is always advisable to consult with legal experts to navigate the complexities of these new regulations and avoid potential liabilities.
  • Cultural Changes: These changes in laws reflect a shift in cultural attitudes towards cannabis use. Employers need to balance these cultural shifts with workplace safety and legal compliance.


The marijuana drug testing laws in California and Washington are undergoing significant changes, reflecting the evolving legal and societal perspectives on cannabis use. Employers in these states must adapt their policies and practices accordingly, emphasizing safety and compliance while accommodating legal cannabis use. Training in recognizing impairment, adopting new testing methods, and understanding legal complexities are key aspects of this adaptation process. These changes highlight the evolving landscape of drug use and workplace safety, requiring employers to stay informed and agile in their response.