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Can You Get Fired for Smoking Weed in New Jersey Now That It Is Legal Statewide?

December 24th, 2020 Christopher Davis

Last month, the New York Times published an article mentioning a recent law that was passed in New Jersey regarding recreational marijuana usage. New Jersey residents voted to amend the state constitution and legalize the use of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The new bill is expected to take full effect on January 1st, 2021. New Jersey is anticipated to become one of the most prominent marijuana markets in the United States. This projection has urged neighboring states, like New York, to also support marijuana legalization for recreational use in fear of potentially losing comparative advantage in this market. The president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association happily responded to this new development, saying “it’s clearly a historic day.” However, since possession and use of marijuana are still illegal under federal law, the question still remains: can someone be fired for smoking weed in New Jersey?

State Versus Federal Laws on Marijuana Use for Medical and Recreational Use

Well, the short answer is it’s complicated. While over 35 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use for both medical and recreational purposes, it remains illegal under federal law. In cases of smoking weed after work hours, the states have varying laws on whether employers have the right to fire their employees or not. In states like Illinois, Massachusetts, Delaware, and others, employees are generally protected from being fired or discriminated against if they are registered medical marijuana cardholders. However, they may be fired if they are using or are impaired by marijuana during work hours. While in other states, employers can regularly drug test their employees and fire them even for off-duty marijuana use. 

New Jersey’s Marijuana Amendment Does Protect Covered Employees

The Marijuana Legalization Amendment for New Jersey that was approved on November 3rd has legalized adult-use of cannabis across the entire state. Nevertheless, some towns and municipalities have banned cannabis-related businesses despite the state-wide legalization. The new section of the bill states that “no employer shall refuse to hire or employ any person or shall discharge from employment or take any adverse action against any employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or other privileges of employment because that person does or does not smoke, vape, aerosolized or otherwise use cannabis items unless the employer has a rational basis for doing so which is reasonably related to the employment, including the responsibilities of the employee or prospective employee.” However, there has been no consensus on what reasons may be considered a “rational basis” in the context of this legislation. While the law prohibits employers from terminating their employees simply because of marijuana use without a rational basis, outcomes can vary on a case-by-case basis. 

Seek Legal Assistance Today 

If you were wrongfully terminated from your job, seek legal assistance from the Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.