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Virginia Legalized Recreational Marijuana. Can You Still Fire Employees for Using It?

  • By: lipplaw
    Published: April 15, 2021

In a WUSA9 segment titled “Virginia legalized recreational marijuana. Can you still get fired for using it?”, Lipp Law Firm owner Katie Lipp weighs in on whether employers can still fire employees for using recreational marijuana in their free time.

Katie was asked several questions relating to this new law, including:


Can you still get fired or penalized by your employer for using recreational weed in your free time?


WUSA9’s Q&A Team reached out to an employment law specialist to find out. The owner of the Lipp Law Firm, Katie Lipp, says the answer is yes.

In a written statement, she explained that employees are still subject to their job’s policies, like being required to pass a drug test.

“For example, many safety and security-sensitive occupations are subject to drug policies requiring employees to pass drug tests, which can include employees in the construction, security, and government sectors,” she said.

In addition, the federal government still mandates a drug-free workplace for all government contractors, outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation.


So what if your workplace doesn’t ask employees to undergo regular drug testing — does that mean you’re in the clear?


Lipp cautions users that partaking in marijuana after-hours can still potentially result in discipline on the job.

“The problem with weed use and the workplace is that it stays in an individual’s body for much longer than other drugs like alcohol or cocaine. So, an employee that uses weed recreationally after work hours may show up to work unimpaired, but can still test positive for weed in their system,” she explained.

Recreational weed usage can also be spotted in a test after a workplace injury. Drug tests are often administered after in-office injuries for insurance purposes, Lipp confirmed.

Users should also be aware that the psychoactive compound in cannabis, THC, is typically detectable “for up to 90 days in hair, anywhere between 3 days to a month or longer in urine (depending on how often the person uses), up to 48 hours in saliva, and up to 36 hours in blood,” according to the website of American Addiction Centers.

Lipp shared that she has worked on cases where employees were fired for smelling like the drug when showing up to work.

“If an employee chooses to use recreational weed in their free time, then the employee should take extra precautions that they arrive at work in an unaltered state and not smelling like weed — the odor obviously can stay in hair and clothes,” Lipp said, adding that it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

“Employees should educate themselves on their workplace drug policies.”

Click here to read the full article and view the video, and contact us today if you have any questions regarding how employers should handle this new law, or how this could affect your business.



Kathryn Megan Lipp

Katie dedicates her practice to employment separation guidance.
Based on her successful employment litigation practice...Read More