AB374 Would be a Significant Roll Back of Statewide Smokefree Workplace Protections

A California bill in the 2022-2023 legislature threatens to roll back smokefree workplace protections for workers at marijuana/cannabis businesses while also expanding marijuana hospitality venues. Assembly Bill 374 would allow marijuana retailers to sell food, non-alcoholic beverages, and sell tickets to concerts and other events.

The bill would essentially create restaurants, cafes, and entertainment venues that allow indoor smoking and vaping. That’s what happened several years ago in West Hollywood—a café opened that allowed smoking cannabis indoors while still technically being a retailer.

AB374 is alarming as it would be a significant roll back of California’s statewide smokefree workplace protections that have been in place for 25 years – since 1998. People who work at cannabis retailers already have their health put at risk if smoking and vaping is allowed in attached consumption lounges. AB374 would increase the number of venues where onsite consumption is allowed. Workers at these retailers are not covered by the smokefree workplace protections that nearly every other worker in California benefits from.

If cannabis smoking is brought indoors, employees working in these new and expanded cannabis businesses will be exposed to secondhand smoke at a much higher rate than the general public and will suffer negative health effects from that exposure.

California’s workforce should be able to breathe air that is free from all types of secondhand smoke exposure—including people working in the cannabis industry. Research shows that ventilation is not able to protect health from secondhand smoke—and that is confirmed by the ventilation standard-setting body, ASHRAE.

AB374 was introduced by Assemblymember Matt Haney, a former San Francisco Supervisor, and it passed the Assembly in May and passed its first Senate Committee hearing in June. In the 2020-2021 legislature, a bill similar to AB374 was introduced by the Assemblymember who represented West Hollywood and wanted to formally legalize the ability to have cannabis consumption cafes around the state. The prior bill moved through the legislature but ultimately did not pass due to public health opposition.

The sponsors of AB374 promoted the bill at a Senate Committee hearing as simply letting marijuana retailers sell a muffin or soda to customers. However, one of the reasons why smokefree air protections are at a growing risk from marijuana legalization and the resultant commercial expansion is the growing industry argument that legal cannabis retailers are suffering economically and need relief to fight against illegal sales. Bill sponsor, Asm Haney, is promoting the legislation as a way to “help pot shops struggling to compete with the illegal market to attract new customers.” The reality is that the supply is exceeding demand – the rapid proliferation of marijuana/cannabis retailers has saturated the market such that the inflated promise of the ‘green wave’ of new revenue is not coming true.

At a Senate Committee hearing in June, other bill supporters said that tourists are traveling to California to experience cannabis culture, that the state needs to embrace cannabis tourism like Thailand, and that “the world is adapting to a new view of cannabis.” Despite changes in attitudes towards the legalization and use of cannabis, Californians generally are not aware of the risks to the popular and effective smokefree workplace protections that most people take for granted.

While this example is from the state of California, other states that have legalized marijuana are facing similar rollbacks to smokefree indoor air protections. All workers should have equal protection on the job, and no one should have to sacrifice their health for a paycheck. Just like any other form of smoking and vaping, cannabis shouldn’t be used in ways that harm other people. Instead of bringing smoking back indoors, ANR recommends that communities discuss practical ways to create legal outdoor spaces out of public view for patrons to smoke or vape cannabis products. See our policy guide for on-site cannabis consumption

Read more about protecting people from secondhand marijuana smoke.