October 13, 2021

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Marijuana Legalization Update: Early 2021 Legislative Developments – Cannabis & Hemp

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In November 2020, voters were in five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted to legalize medical marijuana and / or recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been several developments in the world of marijuana legalization that employers may want to keep an eye on as it evolves in 2021.

While the COVID-19 pandemic stalled many state legislative efforts to legalize marijuana in 2020, many of those efforts were renewed in 2021, and some states have begun to consider marijuana legalization for the first time. While voters in Mississippi and South Dakota approved measures to legalize marijuana in November 2020, later developments have emerged that may affect those approvals.

Employers new to marijuana legalization laws may want to know about two broad categories of medical marijuana laws: (1) Laws with express protection in the language of the law for medical marijuana card holders (i.e., “anti-discrimination provisions.” “) and (2) laws with no specific protection for medical marijuana card holders. Employers should also be aware that whether or not any medical marijuana law contains anti-discrimination provision, they should be aware of the potential disability and housing problems inherent in dealing with medical marijuana cardholders.

Importantly, while recreational marijuana laws are becoming more common, they typically don’t provide employment protection for recreational marijuana users – though New Jersey recently deviated from this approach.

Employers should also keep in mind that legislation tends to evolve as the bills move through the legislative process, and many of the bills discussed in this article are still in committee or at other preliminary stages.

Medical marijuana legislation

Alabama

Senate Act 46 would legalize medical marijuana in Alabama. The bill that is the same as previous legislation Introduced in 2020, does not provide employment protection for medical marijuana card holders.

Florida

Senate Act 692 and House bill 335 would amend the existing Florida Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act to include a provision prohibiting public employers from taking negative employment measures against medical marijuana card holders. The proposed legislation would allow a public employer to discipline an employee if the employer can demonstrate that “the lawful use of medical marijuana affects the employee’s ability to exercise professional responsibilities”. It is important that this ban does not apply to private employers. This development follows failed efforts in 2020 to amend the Florida Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act to prohibit private employers from discriminating against medical marijuana card holders.

Hawaii

Senate Act 64 would amend the existing Hawaii Medical Marijuana Act to include protection for medical marijuana card holders.

Idaho

The Idaho Senate recently voted in favor of a constitutional amendment against drugs. Joint Senate Resolution 101. The proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution would make the use of all psychoactive drugs, including marijuana, illegal. In response, the Idaho House Health & Welfare Committee voted to introduce the Sergeant Kitzhaber Medical Cannabis Act, an act to legalize medical marijuana. The proposed law does not provide employment protection for medical marijuana card holders.

Kansas

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly recently announced a proposal to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. In this regard, both the Kansas Senate Commerce Committee and the House of Representatives Federal and State Affairs Committee have introduced bills to legalize medical marijuana. The proposed bills, Senate Act 92 and House bill 2184, do not provide employment protection for medical marijuana card holders.

Kentucky

House Bill 136 and Senate Bill 92 would Legalize marijuana for medical use in Kentucky. House Bill 136 is a renewed bill identical to previous laws introduced in 2020. Neither bill provides employment protection for medical marijuana card holders. However, recent news reports have shown that it is very likely that these bills will fail this term.

Maryland

Senate Act 504 would amend the existing medical marijuana law in Maryland to include protection for medical marijuana card holders. House bill 683 would add medical marijuana to the list of medical treatments that may be offered to injured workers under state workers’ compensation laws.

Mississippi

The voters agreed Own-initiative measure 65 Legal challenges related to the constitutionality of the initiative arose during the November 2020 elections. The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear oral submissions on the matter in April 2021. Senate Act 2765 would serve as an alternative or parallel to the medical marijuana program approved through the Action 65 initiative. Senate Draft 2765, which the Mississippi State Senate passed on February 12, 2021, does not provide employment protection for medical marijuana card holders.

Nebraska

Bill 474 would legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska. The bill does not include employment protection for medical marijuana card holders.

South carolina

House bill 3361 and Senate Act 150 represent alternate bills, each of which would serve to legalize marijuana for medical use in South Carolina. None of the bills include employment protection for medical marijuana card holders.

South Dakota

In November 2020, voters in South Dakota voted for it Action taken 26who would set up a medical marijuana program in South Dakota. Governor Kristi Noem recently announced a plan to delay implementation of Initiative Measure 26, which was originally scheduled to take effect July 2021, until July 1, 2022. The South Dakota legislature then introduced House bill 1100This reflected Governor Noem’s efforts to delay the implementation of South Dakota’s medical marijuana program.

Virginia

House bill 1862 would prohibit an employer from taking negative employment actions against a medical marijuana card holder based on the individual’s legitimate use of medical cannabis. In particular, Virginia doesn’t have a typical medical marijuana law or program, but rather a limited medical marijuana program that allows individuals to use cannabis oils and products containing less than 10 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Recreational marijuana legislation

Connecticut

Senate Act 5853 and Senate Act 888 would legalize marijuana for recreational use in Connecticut. Governor Ned Lamont was also a proponent of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Florida

House bill 343 and Senate Act 710 would legalize recreational marijuana in Florida.

Hawaii

Hawaii lawmakers are currently considering several alternative bills (e.g. Senate Act 767) Legalize recreational marijuana in Hawaii.

Maryland

House bill 32 would legalize recreational marijuana in Maryland.

Minnesota

House bill 600 and Senate Act 757 would legalize recreational marijuana in Minnesota.

Nebraska

Bill 546 would legalize recreational marijuana in Nebraska.

New Jersey

On February 22, 2021, New Jersey became Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA), which legalizes marijuana for recreational use by adults in New Jersey and prohibits employers from taking negative action against employees for just using marijuana.

New Mexico

New Mexico lawmakers are currently considering several alternative bills (e.g. House bill 12) Legalize recreational marijuana in New Mexico.

new York

Senate Act 854 would legalize recreational marijuana in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo was also a proponent of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

North Dakota

House bill 1420 would legalize recreational marijuana in North Dakota.

Oklahoma

House Bill 1961 would put recreational marijuana legalization on the Oklahoma 2022 ballot box.

Virginia

On February 27, 2021, the Virginia General Assembly approved laws that would legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana for adults from January 1, 2024. Governor Ralph Northam has not yet signed the bill and could propose changes that would accelerate the bill’s entry into force date.

Other states

Legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana is also pending in several states. These laws should be viewed differently than the typical laws legalizing recreational marijuana.

The central theses

Employers across the country may want to closely monitor efforts to legalize marijuana. Marijuana legalization continues to be a fast-moving area of ​​law, and employers following these developments should expect marijuana legalization efforts to continue in the years to come.

The content of this article is intended to provide general guidance on the subject. A professional should be obtained about your particular circumstances.

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