California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has introduced a new bill in the state legislature that would protect medical marijuana users from employment discrimination. Even though it’s legal to use pot recreationally in California, you could still get into trouble with your employer for using it. If Bonta’s bill passes, it would offer some protections for people who rely on cannabis to help them manage their symptoms. But some people say that California’s medical marijuana ID system is deeply flawed, and because of that, this bill won’t protect the people who need it most.
David Downs, the California Bureau Chief for Leafly, says that most people run into discrimination for cannabis use through a pre-employment workplace drug test, or are asked to take a test while already working. Bota’s bill would extend anti-discrimination statutes to include patients who have been issued a medical marijuana ID card from the state. But Downs says many patients who use cannabis for serious chronic illnesses don’t opt to get one.
“It takes a lot of time and money. You got to go get that valid doctor's note and then you got to schedule a county appointment to go in there and turn in a bunch of paperwork, pay an application fee. Assuming everything is correct on the application, the county is going to approve it and call the state and ask the state to cut you a card,” Downs says. “Overall, patients are telling us it can take more than $200 and several weeks and sometimes multiple visits to county health offices to obtain this medical marijuana ID card.”
He also says that people are wary about putting themselves on any kind of government list. Currently, California has only issued 4,500 medical marijuana ID cards in a state with more than 40 million people. Downs says that there are several steps that can be taken to improve the system, and get the people who need the cards registered.
“There's only seven spots in L.A. County, a county of 4700 square miles where you can go and make these physical appointments,” he says. “You can also take it out of the hands of local counties and make it a state administered program or just cut government out entirely …There's a number of options to improving the program.”