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New CA bill could help more marijuana users land jobs

CANNABIS
Many companies in California will turn applicants away if they test positive for marijuana, but a new state bill could change that.

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Many companies in California will turn applicants away if they test positive for marijuana, but a new state bill could change that.

On Friday, Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) proposed legislation that would roll back restrictions for medical marijuana users.

Labor Finders, an employment agency in Santa Maria, says since recreational marijuana was legalized by voters in 2016, applicants have been more open about their consumption.

“They feel that it's legal now, and it's their right that they have that opportunity to do it," said agency branch manager Dennis Bashaline.

Many employers don't see it that way, though.

“It's completely up to the client. We can hire somebody without the drug test obligation or without the marijuana being a problem, but a lot of the clients still are doing business like they were 10 years ago," said Bashaline.

Bonta's bill is addressing part of the issue.

The proposal would allow medical marijuana users to apply for jobs in the private and public sectors.

“I personally think it's inhumane and wrong to discriminate against someone, or to deny people to use cannabis for medical treatment," said Joe A. Garcia, Vice President of the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association.

The bill would not apply to airline pilots, police officers, or truck drivers due to safety reasons.

Labor Finders say these are the type of jobs that are very strict with drug tests.

“So people using machinery, tools, and driving heavy equipment. The majority of those companies require a drug screening just because of the inherent danger of driving five-ton piece of machinery and not being of sound mind," said Bashaline.

For cannabis supporters, the testing is discriminatory -- especially because weed is detectable in urine for several weeks.

“So a person can use opioids on Friday and apply for a job on Monday and come out with a test that's clean of drugs. But if you use cannabis last week, and apply for a job in two weeks, you still may test positive for cannabis," said Garcia.

Some companies have gotten more lenient, using saliva tests instead.

“The saliva test, the way they've engineered them, they only go back about a day or two," said Bashaline.

According to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who tested positive for marijuana were more likely to have industrial accidents and get injured at work. They also missed work more frequently than their colleagues who tested negative.

Some state agencies, like the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, have also said they do not plan to change their hiring policies.

Critics of the bill say it would simply create a dangerous work environment.

Agriculture / Cannabis / Economy / Safety / Santa Maria - North County

Nathalie Vera