What you need to know about your employment and marijuana use

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 10:20 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - You can possess, grow, and -- in some cases -- even consume marijuana in Virginia. But as far as your right to do so as an employee and keep your job? Well, that can be a bit more complicated.

The reality of the situation according to attorney David Thomas is: yes, in most cases your employer can still fire you if you test positive for marijuana. But that may not always be the case.

The new marijuana law, put in place on July 1, does not say anything about what your employer can (or can’t) do. Thomas says it doesn’t change much.

“The change in Virginia law, legalizing simple possession, isn’t really going to have any impact unless the employer decides they want to change their own rules,” he said.

That “unless” can be important, and Thomas says that might be more common.

“In a lot of places, having marijuana in your system is still enough to get you terminated,” he said. “I think you could see companies voluntarily relaxed those rules.”

As far as challenges to any firing, Thomas doesn’t think they’ll get too far because marijuana is still illegal federally.

“So long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, a workplace rule that says you may not violate federal law, I think it’s gonna get upheld 100 times out of 100,” he said.

Thomas says there was a law passed by the general assembly that actually will have an impact on employees’ use of marijuana, but only in specific situations.

“It prohibits an employer from terminating someone for using medical cannabis oil, meaning cannabis oil that was prescribed to them by a doctor in which treats which treats a known and defined condition,” Thomas said.

In regards to the law, Thomas says people shouldn’t see much change unless they are selling marijuana or transporting large qualities of it -- which are both illegal.

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