[[ HB 149) expanding the state’s employment protections for medical cannabis patients to include public employees. The new law takes effect July 1, 2024.

Current law prohibits private employers from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee for their lawful use of medical cannabis pursuant to a valid written certification, but the definition of “employer” excludes the state and localities.

In response to the Governor’s approval, JM Pedini — NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director for Virginia NORML — said: “NORML has worked closely with Delegate Dan Helmer and firefighters across the Commonwealth for three years in an effort to pass a simple definitional amendment that will ensure public employees are properly covered by the state’s existing employment protections law for medical cannabis patients. This legislation will protect the jobs of these heroes who risk their lives to keep Virginians safe.”

Virginia NORML honored Delegate Helmer with the 2024 Vanguard Award for his continued efforts in protecting the rights of responsible consumers. “We’re so grateful for Delegate Helmer’s advocacy, and thankful Senators Stella Pekarsky and Emily Jordan joined our efforts this year,” added Pedini. “Virginia’s firefighters, emergency services providers, and civil servants across the Commonwealth deserve the same job protections currently provided to private employees for their lawful and responsbile use of medical cannabis. This is a long overdue victory.”

Delegate Helmer accepts the 2024 Vanguard Award from Virginia NORML

The governor also approved a bill (HB 815) that provides regulatory improvements to the state’s medical cannabis program.

Governor Youngkin vetoed legislation (SB 115) which sought to protect the parental rights of lawful cannabis consumers by amending the state’s child neglect statute so that the use of cannabis by a parent or a child’s guardian is no longer considered to be prima facie evidence of a crime. He previously vetoed the House companion measure (HB 833).

NORML’s Pedini testified in support of the bills, opining that courts and other state agencies have historically cited parents’ medical cannabis patient status as a reason for either withholding child custody or visitation rights. In repose to the veto, they commented: “Again, Governor Youngkin has shown Virginians how uninformed he is on the real world impacts of outdated and discriminatory cannabis policies. A parent’s lawful and responsible use of cannabis should never be a reason to deny custody or visitation, yet that is exactly what happens in courts across Virginia. These bills would have provided clear and simple direction to courts while maintaining ample discretion. Instead, Virginia children will continue to be needlessly separated from their parents simply because they are lawful medical cannabis patients.”

Last year, Maryland’s Gov. Wes Moore signed similar legislation into law. That law took effect on July 1, 2023.

Last month, Youngkin vetoed legislation that would have licensed adult-use retail sales and facilitated resentencing relief for people previously convicted of certain marijuana-related offenses.

Additional information is available from Virginia NORML.

“]] A mixed bag for cannabis policy in the 2024 General Assembly  Read More