Legislators Pass Bills Safeguarding Medical Cannabis Patients' Employment in Virginia

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Two bills would enact protections for Virginia medical cannabis patients’ employment status.

In mid-February 2024, two bills, House Bill 149 and Senate Bill 391, recently passed, both aiming to provide protections for employees in the public sector, such as teachers or police officers, who use medical cannabis (1). In Virginia, patients seeking medical cannabis must obtain authorization from an approved practitioner and can only purchase their medication through the state’s program (1).

The summary of the intent of House Bill 149 read (2): “Amends the provision that prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee for such employee's lawful use of cannabis product pursuant to a valid written certification issued by a practitioner for the treatment or to eliminate the symptoms of the employee's diagnosed condition or disease, with certain exceptions, by specifying that such use must conform to the laws of the Commonwealth and that such protections extend to the employees of the Commonwealth and other public bodies.”


In short, patients would potentially no longer risk their jobs by taking their medication. Employers would still be able to impose on-the-clock cannabis use restrictions and reprimands for impairment, though an accurate measurement for impairment has yet to be fully established (1,3).

HB 149 passed with a vote of 78–20 (1). It was sponsored by Delegate Dan Helmer, who also sponsored a bill several years ago that established protections for employees in the private sector (1). “The key was we left our brave first responders out of this,” Helmer said (1). “That was never our intent and so this bill is meant to fix that.”

Supporters of the bill testified that medical cannabis use had a positive effects, such as less alcohol and opioid use (1).

Senate Bill 391, which recently passed in a 30–10 vote, is similar to HB 149, though it excludes police officers (3). Both bills are now in the House and Senate, respectively (1).


  1. Chun, M. Bills advance to protect state employees who access medical cannabis (accessed Feb 19, 2024).
  2. HB 149 (accessed Feb 19, 2024).
  3. Trujillo, M. A. Virginia lawmakers pave the way for medical cannabis use in public sector employment (accessed Feb 19, 2024).