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  • Christopher D.

Virginia's Hazy Marijuana Climate: Guidance for Employers in 2024


Virginia has entered a transitional period regarding marijuana laws that leaves many employers unsure of their rights and responsibilities. Medical marijuana has been legal since 2020, but the planned rollout of recreational adult-use keeps getting pushed back, creating a confusing landscape. Here's what Virginia businesses need to know in 2024.


Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

First, it's important for employers to understand Virginia's current medical marijuana program. Approved patients with qualifying conditions can legally obtain marijuana products from licensed dispensaries after receiving a written certification from a physician.


While federal law still considers marijuana an illegal controlled substance, Virginia's law offers some workplace protections for registered medical marijuana patients. Specifically, the law prohibits discrimination against employees for their lawful use of marijuana products pursuant to the state's medical program.


This means Virginia employers cannot fire or refuse to hire someone simply for their status as a lawful medical marijuana patient. However, the law still allows employers to have policies restricting the impaired use of marijuana at the workplace or during work hours.


So while Virginia employers must make reasonable accommodations for offsite medical use, they can still enforce policies prohibiting impairment and possession on company premises or during work duties. Regular drug testing policies also remain enforceable.


Navigating this nuanced approach requires updating substance policies and practices as needed. But overall, having a current medical marijuana card does offer some statutory workplace protections in the Commonwealth.


Recreational Marijuana Delays

Originally passed in 2021, Virginia's law was slated to permit recreational adult-use sales starting January 1, 2024. However, that target date has been pushed back amid concerns from Governor Glenn Youngkin's administration and a rewrite of legislation to incorporate revised regulations.


Reports now indicate the earliest adult-use sales will begin is 2027 at the earliest, depending on how long it takes to restructure the legislation and establish a legal market framework. For the time being, only medical use remains legal.


So what does this mean for employers? In short, Virginia employers do not yet need to account for any broad legalization of recreational marijuana in their workplace substance policies and procedures. The rules applying to registered medical marijuana patients still stand.


Companies should stay tuned for further developments, as lawmakers continue working to establish a commercial adult-use program. Once sales eventually begin, there will likely need to be workplace policy adjustments. In the interim, experts recommend Virginia employers take this opportunity to review their drug policies through a few key lenses:


  • Impairment vs. Use: Policies should focus on impairment at work rather than off-duty use or metabolites that can linger after impairment subsides. Unclear wording conflating the two can expose companies to legal risks.


  • Medical Carve Outs: Explicitly allow exceptions to accommodate registered medical marijuana patients' off-site, responsible use per state law.


  • Drug Testing Adjustments: Traditional urine tests can be unreliable indicators of recent use versus weeks-old remnants. Policies should explain marijuana testing methods and confirm impairment through objective observation.


  • Job Risks: Identify any positions where even offsite use could create a direct safety hazard, and set clear impairment rules as needed.


Ultimately, subject matter experts emphasize the goal should be ensuring workplace safety through impairment prevention – not policing private, legal behavior. "The key for employers is moving away from rigid zero-tolerance policies that ban any use or metabolites and instead focus on impairment during work hours and safety-sensitive positions," said Jonathan Hancock, an employment attorney at Sands Anderson.


Looking Ahead 

While Virginia's indefinite pause on recreational sales brings a temporary reprieve for employers, the overall legal shift surrounding marijuana is clear. More states are embracing legalization each year.


So rather than cross that bridge when they reach it, businesses would be wise to start examining their policies, handbooks, job descriptions, and testing procedures now. Those proactive steps can help prepare for Virginia's inevitable entry into permitting adult-use marijuana.


And for companies operating across multiple states, consistent policies allowing for local nuances are essential. Legal experts advise having workplace impairment rules that can accommodate emerging marijuana laws across different jurisdictions.


Virginia's piecemeal legalization rollout creates challenges for businesses. But reviewing policies through a lens of personal autonomy, workplace safety and legal compliance can help steer the right course through this hazy landscape.


Get Your Medical Marijuana Card Today

Lucky for you, medical marijuana is already available in Virginia! You can get your medical marijuana card and access dispensaries today if you have a qualifying condition.


Recreational marijuana is legal in Virginia, but it does not mean much since there are no recreational dispensaries to purchase products from.


There are also countless benefits to having your medical card in a recreational state! You will save money on taxes and marijuana products and enjoy higher possession and purchase limits if you have your medical card in Virginia!


In order to qualify for your medical marijuana card, you will need to have a condition that would make you eligible. If you aren’t sure if you would qualify, give us a call and we can answer any questions you may have about the process.


If you don’t already have your card, no worries. We can help! If you think you could benefit from medical marijuana, there is a good chance you would qualify for your medical card in the State of Virginia. With telemedicine, it is now easier than ever to get your medical card from the comfort of your own home!


In Virginia, any inhibiting condition could qualify you for your medical card. If you don’t already have it, we can help! Schedule an evaluation online today and we’ll make an appointment for you with one of our knowledgeable, compassionate doctors.

 

 

Doctors Who Care.

Relief You Can Trust.


At Virginia Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness

safely and conveniently through increased access to MMJ. Our focus on

education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by

providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.


Call us at (888) 633-5808, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!

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