Virginia House Approves Bill to Protect Public Workers from Medical Marijuana Firing

Virginia House Approves Bill to Protect Public Workers from Medical Marijuana Firing

The Virginia House of Delegates has taken a significant step forward in protecting public sector workers, such as government officials and teachers, from being terminated due to medical marijuana use. In a resounding 80-18 vote, the House advanced a Senate-passed bill introduced by Sen. Stella Pekarsky (D), sending it to the governor’s desk for final approval. Once signed into law by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), the legislation will align the state’s medical cannabis employment policy for public workers with those already in place for the private sector.

However, it’s essential to note that the measure includes an exemption for law enforcement officials.

Under the proposed legislation, Virginia code would be amended to prevent employers from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee for lawful medical cannabis use. This protection extends to employees with a valid written certification from a practitioner, allowing them to use cannabis oil for the treatment of a diagnosed condition or disease.

Nevertheless, the law does not prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees who are impaired on the job or possess cannabis on workplace premises.

A similar bill to provide medical marijuana employment protections for public sector workers was previously approved in the House. However, it was amended in a Senate committee to add language exempting law enforcement officials, ensuring consistency with the Senate version.

While Virginia legalized adult-use marijuana in 2021, regulated sales are yet to be implemented. Presently, residents can only access cannabis through the medical program.

Legislation is underway in both chambers this session to authorize recreational sales, with efforts to align the bills before submitting the reform to the governor. Despite Democratic-led plans for legalization, Governor Youngkin expressed his lack of interest in legalizing sales, although he previously indicated openness to the idea.

The move to protect medical marijuana users in the workforce echoes similar efforts across various states. California and Washington have implemented laws preventing employment discrimination based on lawful cannabis use, while a Florida Senate bill aims to safeguard state employees participating in the medical cannabis program.

At the federal level, a House committee advanced a bill last September to protect individuals from being denied federal jobs or security clearances due to past marijuana use.

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