Marijuana Legalization Update: Early 2021 Legislative Developments – Cannabis & Hemp – United States – Mondaq News Alerts

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

While the COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to many state
legislative efforts to legalize marijuana in 2020, many of those
efforts have been renewed in 2021, and some states have begun to
consider marijuana legalization for the first time. Also, while
Mississippi and South Dakota voters approved marijuana legalization
measures in November 2020, subsequent developments have emerged
that may impact those approvals.

Employers new to marijuana legalization laws may want to be
aware of the two broad categories of medical marijuana laws: (1)
laws with express protections within the language of the statutes
for medical marijuana cardholders (i.e., „antidiscrimination” provisions) and (2) laws without
express protections for medical marijuana cardholders. Employers
should also be aware that irrespective of whether a medical
marijuana law contains an antidiscrimination provision, they should
be mindful of the potential disability and accommodation issues
inherently at play when dealing with medical marijuana
cardholders.

Importantly, while recreational marijuana laws are becoming more
common, they typically do not contain employment protections for
recreational marijuana users—although New Jersey recently deviated from this
approach
.

Employers may also want to keep in mind that legislation tends
to evolve as bills work their way through the legislative process,
and many of the bills discussed in this article are still in
committee or other preliminary stages.

Medical Marijuana Legislation

Alabama

Senate Bill 46 would legalize marijuana
for medicinal purposes in Alabama. The bill, which is the same
as prior legislation introduced in 2020,
does not contain any employment protections for medical marijuana
cardholders.

Florida

Senate Bill 692 and House Bill 335 would amend the existing
Florida Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act to include a provision
prohibiting public employers from taking adverse employment action
against medical marijuana cardholders. The proposed legislation
would permit a public employer to discipline an employee if the
employer is able to show that the „lawful use of medical
marijuana use is impairing the employee’s ability to perform
his or her job responsibilities.” Importantly, this
prohibition would not extend 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 cardholders.

Hawaii

Senate Bill 64 would amend the existing
Hawaii Medical Marijuana Act to include protections for medical
marijuana cardholders.

Idaho

The Idaho Senate recently voted in favor of an anti-drug
constitutional amendment, Senate Joint 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, a medical marijuana
legalization bill. The proposed act does not contain any employment
protections for medical marijuana cardholders.

Kansas

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly recently announced a proposal to
legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Relatedly, both the
Kansas Senate Commerce Committee and House Federal and State
Affairs Committee have introduced medical marijuana legalization
bills. The proposed bills, Senate Bill 92 and House Bill 2184, do not contain any employment
protections for medical marijuana cardholders.

Kentucky

House Bill 136 and Senate Bill 92 would legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes
in Kentucky. House Bill 136 is a renewed bill that is the same as
prior legislation introduced in 2020. Neither bill contains any
employment protections for medical marijuana cardholders. Recent
news reports, however, have indicated that there is a strong
likelihood that these bills will not pass this legislative
session.

Maryland

Senate Bill 504 would amend the existing
Maryland medical marijuana law to include protections for medical
marijuana cardholders. House Bill 683 would add medical
marijuana to the list of medical treatments that can be provided to
injured employees under the state’s workers' compensation
laws.

Mississippi

Since voters approved Initiative Measure 65 during the November
2020 election legal challenges have arisen related to the
constitutionality of the initiative. The Supreme Court of
Mississippi will hear oral arguments on this issue in April 2021.
Perhaps in response to these challenges, Senate Bill 2765 would serve as an
alternative or parallel to the medical marijuana program authorized
by Initiative Measure 65. Senate Bill 2765, which passed the
Mississippi State Senate on February 12, 2021, does not contain any
employment protections for medical marijuana cardholders.

Nebraska

Legislative Bill 474 would legalize
marijuana for medicinal purposes in Nebraska. The bill does not
contain any employment protections for medical marijuana
cardholders.

South Carolina

House Bill 3361 and Senate Bill 150 represent alternative
bills that would each serve to legalize marijuana for medicinal
purposes in South Carolina. Neither bill contains any employment
protections for medical marijuana cardholders.

South Dakota

In November 2020, South Dakota voters approved Initiated Measure 26, which would establish a
medical marijuana program in South Dakota. Governor Kristi
Noem recently announced a plan to delay the
implementation of Initiative Measure 26, which was originally
scheduled to take effect in July 2021, until July 1, 2022. The
South Dakota legislature subsequently introduced House Bill 1100, which reflected Governor
Noem’s efforts to delay implementation of South Dakota’s
medical marijuana program.

Virginia

House Bill 1862 would prohibit an employer
from taking adverse employment action against a medical marijuana
cardholder based on the individual’s lawful use of medical
cannabis. Notably, Virginia does not have a typical medical
marijuana law or program in place but instead has a limited medical
marijuana program allowing individuals to use cannabis oils and
products with less than 10 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Recreational Marijuana Legislation

Connecticut

Senate Bill 5853 and Senate Bill 888 would legalize marijuana
for recreational use in Connecticut. Governor Ned Lamont has also
been a vocal proponent for legalization of marijuana for
recreational use.

Florida

House Bill 343 and Senate Bill 710 would legalize marijuana
for recreational use in Florida.

Hawaii

Hawaii lawmakers are currently considering several alternative
bills (such as Senate Bill 767) to legalize marijuana for
recreational use in Hawaii.

Maryland

House Bill 32 would legalize marijuana
for recreational use in Maryland.

Minnesota

House Bill 600 and Senate Bill 757 would legalize marijuana
for recreational use in Minnesota.

Nebraska

Legislative Bill 546 would legalize
marijuana for recreational use in Nebraska.

New Jersey

On February 22, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Cannabis
Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization
Act (CREAMMA), legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use in
New Jersey and prohibiting employers from taking adverse action
against employees solely because they use marijuana.

New Mexico

New Mexico lawmakers are currently considering several
alternative bills (such as House Bill 12) to legalize marijuana for
recreational use in New Mexico.

New York

Senate Bill 854 would legalize marijuana
for recreational use in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo has also
been a vocal proponent of the legalization of marijuana for
recreational use.

North Dakota

House Bill 1420 would legalize marijuana
for recreational use in North Dakota.

Oklahoma

House Bill 1961 would place the issue of
marijuana legalization for recreational use on the 2022 Oklahoma
election ballot.

Virginia

On February 27, 2021, the Virginia General Assembly approved
legislation that would legalize the sale and possession of
recreational marijuana for adult recreational use beginning on
January 1, 2024. Governor Ralph Northam has not yet signed the
legislation and may propose amendments that would speed up the
effective date of the proposed law.

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 typical recreational marijuana legalization
laws.

Key Takeaways

Employers across the country may want to closely monitor state
marijuana legalization efforts. Marijuana legalization continues to
be a quickly moving area of the 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 a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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