National Cannabis Awareness Month: What SB 700 Means for California Employers

Posted by Catherine Chukwueke | Apr 16, 2024

April is National Cannabis Awareness Month. This month, we are exploring how cannabis laws are changing and what it means for the workplace. Senate Bill 700 ("SB 700") is a big part of this change, offering important protections for job applicants and employees regarding past cannabis use, with some exceptions. SB 700, which went into effect on January 1, 2024, brings new rights and responsibilities for both employers and employees.

Expanded Protections under SB 700

SB 700 extends the protection provided by the Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), reinforcing California's commitment to equality and fairness in the workplace. By explicitly prohibiting employers from discriminating based on off-the-job and away-from-the-workplace cannabis use, SB 700 sets a precedent for safeguarding individuals' rights to employment opportunities, regardless of their cannabis history. The law also says employers cannot discriminate when hiring, firing, or setting job conditions based on non-psychoactive cannabis byproducts found in pre-employment drug tests.

Limiting Information Requests

A pivotal aspect of SB 700 is its stringent limitations on employers' ability to request information about a job applicant's prior cannabis use. This proactive measure aims to prevent discrimination and undue bias in the hiring process, fostering a more inclusive and equitable employment landscape. However, nuanced considerations are provided regarding information from an individual's criminal history, subject to the law's provisions and exceptions outlined therein.

Balancing Responsibilities: Employees and Employers

While SB 700 affirms protections against discrimination linked to cannabis use, it also underscores the importance of maintaining workplace safety and productivity. Employees are expected to adhere to their responsibility not to possess, be impaired by, or use cannabis on the job, ensuring a safe and conducive work environment. This legislation reinforces employers' rights to maintain drug- and alcohol-free workplaces, promoting employee well-being and organizational efficiency.

Exceptions and Exclusions

Recognizing the diverse nature of industries and employment contexts, SB 700 includes exceptions tailored to specific sectors, such as employees in the building and construction trades. Moreover, certain positions requiring federal government background investigation or security clearance are exempt from the provisions of SB 700, ensuring alignment with federal regulations and security protocols.

Preparing for Change

With SB 700 currently in effect, employers are urged to review and update their employment practices to align with the new legislative landscape. Proactive measures, such as revisiting hiring processes, discrimination policies, and information requests, are essential for ensuring compliance and mitigating legal risks. By staying informed and responsive to these legal changes, employers can foster a more inclusive and fair work environment while safeguarding themselves from potential legal challenges.


As National Cannabis Awareness Month draws attention to the evolving dynamics of cannabis legislation, employers must navigate these changes with diligence and foresight. The Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke stands ready to provide guidance and support in understanding and implementing SB 700 and other relevant employment laws. Schedule a consultation today to ensure that your company's policies are up-to-date and compliant with California employment law.

About the Author

Catherine Chukwueke

Catherine (“Cathy”) Chukwueke is the Owner and Principal Attorney of the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke, a law firm focusing on labor and employment matters and workplace investigations. Ms. Chukwueke is passionate about helping people who have been mistreated in the workplace.

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