A California State Personnel Board (SPB) ruling limits using positive cannabis drug tests in disciplining state workers. The “precedential decision” determined that urine samples do not accurately reflect whether an employee is under the influence of cannabis while at work.
“…The Board notes that it does not take a position on whether using marijuana is a good thing or a bad thing. The voters have spoken and legalized it in the State of California. Given that reality, State Agencies are powerless to discipline employees, like Appellant, whose test showed only that marijuana had been ingested or used sometime in the past, but that Appellant was not under the influence of marijuana while on duty.” – California State Personnel Board decision No. 21-01, Darrin Harper v. California Department of Transportation
Darrin Harper, a Caltrans maintenance worker, brought the case against the Transportation Department after he was fired following a positive cannabis test. The SPB noted that Caltrans “did not contend” Harper was under the influence while on the job and Caltrans never made such allegations in their Notice of Adverse Action against Harper or during an evidentiary hearing.
The board further acknowledged that Harper’s behavior was “no different from the personal consumption of wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages.”
“It is a social and recreational activity that is legal and permissible in California,” the board said.
The decision does note that some state jobs are considered “safety sensitive” but state law only bars “the use, possession, or being under the influence of illegal or unauthorized mind-altering substances” while on duty or on standby for duty.
The SPB ruling does clarify that the decision neither covers federal government employees or federal contractors in California, nor law enforcement officers.
The decision was adopted at the SPB’s March 4 meeting.