California Drug Testing Laws | 2024 Marijuana (Weed) Laws

08/06/2023 11:41 PM By renezawale

What are Drug Testing Laws in California? 

Employers in California need to be aware of the drug testing laws in California before hiring. Pre-employment and workplace drug testing is allowed in California but should follow certain conditions. Failing to abide by California drug testing laws during a drug test before employment can lead to serious consequences for the employer and the company. It is best to consult with a background check agency before proceeding with drug testing. 

Various panels of drug tests are available for the employer among which 5 panel drug test is seen as the most common one. A standard 5-panel test checks for 5 drug abuse substances (Marijuana, Cocaine, Opiates, Amphetamines, Phencyclidine) but can be customized depending on the need of the employer and the nature of the job. 

Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Potential employees can be asked to take a suspicionless drug test after the job is offered. However, the employee should pass the test to be able to accept it. If the usage of illegal drugs is found, an employer can deny the candidate the employment opportunity. 

State of California does not require all employers to test employees before hiring. Only certain job designations require drug testing by law. Urine 5 panel drug test is the most commonly preferred testing method by employers but can vary based on the requirements. 

Drug Test for Marijuana/Weed

From January 2024, employers cannot fire or suspend employees for using weed or marijuana outside office hours. However, if an employer is found under the influence of marijuana during office hours, the employer can fire or suspend them. 

Marijuana is naturally found and cultivated in the cannabis plant. It has been legal in California since 2016. Now that the laws have been passed, employers need to adapt to how they handle employees and potential candidates who use marijuana. A drug-free workplace environment is key for the proper functioning of an organization, so both the employer and employees should respect the law and the organization's policies. 

Routine or Random Employee Drug Testing 

An employer can’t ask an employee to take a random drug test out of the blue. Only under specific circumstances of public safety and in specific jobs, can there be such drug tests. Besides those specific circumstances and specific jobs, it is illegal to ask employees to take a random test in California. 

Routine drug tests can be conducted after giving the employees proper notice time. 

Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing 

Reasonable suspicion drug testing is a complex situation where an employer feels an employee is under drug influence during office hours due to a series of minor incidents which infer drug usage by the employee. Usually, employers stay clear of this unless they have a strong case against the employee. 

Public and Private Employers 

In California, both public and private companies can request pre-employment drug tests before hiring. They can also ask employees to take routine tests and reasonable suspicion tests, but not employees who are applying for promotions. Random testing is illegal in California. 

ADA and CFEH Act

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) safeguard individuals who were previous alcohol or drug abusers and have undergone successful rehabilitation and are no longer engaging in any illegal drug use or alcohol abuse. Rehabilitation can be through a supervised rehabilitation program or their own efforts. They do not provide protection for individuals who are presently using drugs or misusing alcohol. 

Transportation Industry Drug Testing 

For employers in the transportation industry, it is crucial to regulate a strict drug and alcohol-free work environment, especially for vehicle operators. Drivers are at all times held responsible for the safe completion of their journey. Driving commercial vehicles under the influence is taken even more seriously than driving private vehicles. 

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates these laws and policies strictly for the safety of the general public, employers, and all employees involved. 

Drug-Free Workplace Policies 

You, as an employer, can enforce a drug-free workplace policy and provide the employees with a set of dos and don’ts. This also includes prohibiting marijuana in workplaces and attending workplaces under marijuana’s influence. You can do this by following the privacy rights and marijuana laws maintained by the California state. 

California Drug-Free Workplace Act 

If you and your company are receiving funds as grants from the state of California, it is mandatory by California's Drug-free Workplace Act of 1990 for you to certify that you and your company provide a drug-free workplace. You are also required to establish a strict drug-free awareness program policy in the organization. 

Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act 

If you and your company are receiving funds as federal grants, you must fulfill the regulations set by the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. Additionally, you are required to follow these regulations if you are working on a federal contract for the procurement of services for properties valued at least USD100,000. 

Wrongful Termination by Drug Testing 

It is absolutely understandable why employers want to build a drug-free workplace and can conduct tests to maintain it. However, drug tests are not always 100 percent accurate and foolproof. Sometimes, they might show positive even when the employee is not under the influence of the drug. In such cases, employers end up firing them. 

Employees can rightfully appeal the decision and respond to the allegations within the California drug testing laws. If wrongful termination is proven, the employee is re-hired with back and compensatory damage. To avoid such extreme conditions where the employer may have to reinstate an employee, it is good to do a re-test before dismissing the employee. 


What jobs require drug tests in California?

Answer: All employers can request a suspicionless pre-employment drug test. Government jobs, health and medical professional jobs, commercial and private transportation jobs, private security jobs, law enforcement jobs, and aerospace and defense (A&D) jobs strictly require drug tests. 

What jobs do not require drug tests in California?

Answer: There is a whole list of jobs that do not require strict drug testing in California. Chef, accountant, personal trainer, basic data entry, waitressing, designing, cashier, etc. are some jobs that would not require drug tests. As mentioned above, employers can request a drug test but they will be suspicionless and you will be given notice time to prepare. 

Can you refuse a drug test at work in California?

Answer: Yes, you can refuse to take a drug test at work in California. Unless the employer has a good case of suspicion against you, you can most certainly refuse to take a drug test. Employees in California have a strong right to privacy protection. 

Do employers test for weed in California?

Answer: Yes, employers can test for weed. Despite weed or marijuana being legal in California, an employer can test for it before hiring. If they want to test it during the job, they should have a strong enough case against you using weed during office hours and working under the influence.