New Marijuana Laws in New Mexico and Virginia
2021 has brought a flurry of activity surrounding marijuana laws, particularly recreational marijuana use. The number of states approving recreational marijuana continues to grow.
On April 12, 2021, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the state’s recreational marijuana bill. The New Mexico recreational marijuana law will take effect in late June 2021. Unlike the recent marijuana laws enacted in New York and New Jersey that provide employment protections for off-duty recreational marijuana users, the New Mexico law does not “prevent or infringe upon the rights of an employer to adopt and implement a written zero-tolerance policy regarding the use of cannabis products.” The law permits employers to take adverse employment actions for the possession or use of marijuana at work or during work hours. Additionally, the law specifically permits zero-tolerance policies that impose discipline or termination for a positive marijuana test result indicating any amount of THC. However, employers should take note that the law does not restrict rights afforded to medical marijuana users under state law.
Effective July 1, 2021, individuals over the age of 21 can lawfully possess up to an ounce of marijuana in Virginia. The new law creates a Virginia Cannabis Control Authority which will implement regulations for the adult use of the marijuana market. In late March, Virginia also amended the state’s medical cannabis law to prohibit discrimination against lawful users of medical cannabis oil. The law, which becomes effective July 1, 2021, does not restrict employers from taking action based on workplace impairment due to use of cannabis oil. It also contains exceptions for employers if compliance with the law would result in a loss of a federal contract or federal funding, and for defense industrial base sector employers.
The fate of recreational marijuana is yet to be determined in South Dakota. As previously reported, voters approved both recreational and medical marijuana initiatives in November 2020. However, the South Dakota recreational measure was later struck down as unconstitutional. That ruling has been appealed, and the South Dakota Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue later this month.