Governor Northam Approves Employment Protection Bill

Governor Ralph Northam has signed House Bill 1862 into law, which provides employment protections for state-registered medical cannabis patients.

The new law prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against employees for their lawful use of medical cannabis while away from the job. The measure does not restrict an employer’s ability to impose sanctions upon employees if they are under the influence of cannabis while at work, nor does it limit an employers ability to restrict employees from possessing cannabis while at work. The new law takes effect July 1, 2021.

NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as Executive Director for Virginia NORML, praised the legislation. “With Virginia’s first medical dispensaries now operational, this is an important initial step for lawmakers to take in defense of patients’ rights,” they said. “But with the Commonwealth on the verge of becoming the first state in the South to legalize cannabis for adult-use, the legislature should work swiftly to eliminate suspicionless marijuana testing altogether in order to better align with both state law and with public opinion.”

Because Virginia has a high number federal contractors, the legislation would not require an employer “to commit any act that would cause the employer to be in violation of federal law or that would result in the loss of a federal contract or federal funding.” Defense industrial base sector employers will not be required to hire or retain any applicant or employee who tests positive for THC in excess of 50 ng/ml for a urine test or 10 pg/mg for a hair test.

In 2020, Richmond city council members passed a resolution excluding non-safety sensitive employees and job applicants from marijuana testing.

Earlier this month, Governor Northam approved legislation to allow the dispensing of botanical medical cannabis, to make permanent the telehealth improvements enacted during the public health crisis, and to ensure patients in residential facilities like hospice are able to access medical cannabis.

Separate legislation seeking to legalize the possession of marijuana by adults and license its retail sale awaits action by Governor Northam, who continues to offer his public support for the legislation, which is backed by 68 percent of Virginians.

For more information, contact Jenn Michelle Pedini, NORML Development Director.

Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, “Marijuana Legalization and Impact on the Workplace.”