In What States Is Weed Legal Recreationally?
In What States Is Weed Legal Recreationally?
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In What States Is Weed Legal Recreationally?
Legalizing recreational weed use has taken a long road in the United States. As of February 2023, twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. Support for recreational legalization was relatively low in the late '60s. Still, as younger generations came into their own, support has accelerated. In 2019, a Gallup poll found that 81% of respondents under 30 supported the idea of legal recreational marijuana, and 62% of U.S. adults between 50 and 64 also supported legalization.
As a personal injury law firm, Morgan and Morgan understand that prospective clients might face a few sides to this issue. The first is being harmed by a cannabis product, whether through personal consumption of a dangerous product from a dispensary or by someone who was under the influence and caused you injury. The second is a gray area of the law that is still being debated in many states. Whether or not your employer can terminate you for using marijuana on your own time.
We'll go over some of the concerns you may have. But ultimately, it's best to talk with one of our personal injury lawyers to determine if you have a case since state and federal laws will determine your options and the best course of action to take.
U.S. States That Have Legalized Recreational Weed
The following states have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
All other states either have mixed laws concerning whether cannabis use is allowed for medicinal purposes or whether it has been decriminalized, or use of marijuana is still entirely illegal.
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What Does Decriminalization of Weed Mean?
While the legalization of weed is the process of removing legal constraints against it, decriminalization means it remains illegal. Still, legal authorities would not prosecute an individual who was discovered to be in possession of a small specified amount. That means no arrest, jail time, or criminal record for first-time offenders. Generally, this means someone possessing a small amount for personal consumption would be treated similarly to someone who had broken a traffic law.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Using Legal Recreational Weed?
It's a strange situation to find yourself in. State laws allow you to use weed for recreational purposes, but your employer has a zero-tolerance drug policy. While it's understandable for employers to want their workers to be sober while on the job, cannabis is different from alcohol. Marijuana can appear on a drug test weeks after use, and the individual is no longer impaired.
That calls for a debate about whether your employer should have cause to fire you for using a legal substance on your own time. You might have recourse through a personal injury lawsuit if you've been terminated from your job illegally. However, it all depends on who you work for and in which state you were employed.
For example, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. If you are a government employee or your employers are receiving federal funding, you would unlikely have grounds to sue, even if use is legalized in your state. However, we always recommend running the facts of your case by one of our personal injury attorneys because there are just too many scenarios to address in one article.
The next question is whether the drug test was legal. Some states have enacted laws concerning the circumstances under which drug tests can be performed. Generally, employers are allowed to use drug tests as part of the screening process prior to employment. After someone is employed, however, these allowances can be more restrictive.
Broadly, many state laws empower employers to conduct drug tests under the following circumstances:
- There is justification for believing the employee is under the influence of drugs during work hours
- The employee works in a role that could cause danger to the public or other coworkers
- An employee was involved in an incident that caused bodily injury or property damage
- As part of a fitness-for-duty exam
- Following the completion of a drug rehabilitation program by the employee
Your state may have other rules concerning testing. For example, you may have a right to contest a positive result by either providing an explanation or being retested.
Which States Have Laws That Protect Marijuana Users From Being Fired?
In the numerous states where newly enacted recreational cannabis laws apply, laws concerning workers' rights may have yet to catch up. Currently, only a handful of states have laws in effect or pending that protect employees from using cannabis recreationally. These are:
- Rhode Island
If you're a medical marijuana user, you likely have further protection in additional states unless you're impaired while performing your job duties. However, recreational users may be disappointed to learn that while it may be legal to use marijuana, many states have specifications that legalization does not mean it can intrude on businesses' zero-tolerance policies.
Still, you may be able to refer to your employer's policies concerning the manner of your termination. Companies must still adhere to their own policies when terminating an employee. If your company's drug use policy requires drug treatment before termination, yet you didn't get that option, you might have cause for legal action. Likewise, if you have a union job, you will likely have further considerations.
If I'm Disabled and Use Medical Marijuana, Can I Be Fired by My Employer?
Unfortunately, until the federal government legalizes marijuana, you don't have the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.) While the ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, this does not apply to accommodations for a drug which is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government, which oversees the ADA.
Who Is Legally Responsible for Harm Caused by a Cannabis Product?
Legal cannabis is a product and subject to the same laws that protect consumers just like any other product. Thus far, most product liability lawsuits related to cannabis have been due to mold, the use of pesticides, and other concerns about the growing process. Since legal use is relatively new, the list is sure to grow.
When a product has caused harm, you have the right to pursue a product liability case to hold the product maker liable for injuries and losses. However, product liability laws vary by state. Generally, product liability falls under three types of claims, which are:
Manufacturing defect - These defects occur when processing the product for distribution. For a product like marijuana, contaminations from mold or pesticides could happen at this stage.
Design defect - When products are inherently dangerous by design, it's a defect that could open the manufacturer to liability for damages that ensue. For example, synthetic strains have been known to cause episodes of psychosis that lead to harm. Another example is vaping cartridges that explode during use because of a design flaw.
Marketing defects - Product manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers of the possible risks of using their product. If a product was improperly labeled or lacked any user information and harmed a consumer, the manufacturer may be liable. For example, an edible that does not display the THC level might cause a regular consumer to ingest more THC than they are used to, resulting in some form of harm.
Traditionally, product liability lawsuits have historical precedents under the law. However, since legal cannabis is so new, there is little judicial precedent on which to base legal arguments.
If you or a loved one were harmed by a cannabis product, Morgan and Morgan have product liability lawyers at the forefront of this burgeoning area of the law.
Can I Sue Someone Who Injured Me Because They Were Under the Influence of Marijuana?
The short answer is yes. Anytime someone is reckless or negligent and causes injury to another person or their property, they can be held liable for the damages. This includes being under the influence of weed, whether it's legal in your state or not.
Similar to alcohol, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. That's because the effects on a person are comparable. When you're under the influence of weed, your reaction times and judgment are affected. Anytime someone operates a motor vehicle, they owe a duty of care to others. Driving while impaired is an automatic breach of that duty, which leaves the negligent driver liable for the harm they cause.
Likewise, if another party engages in an action while high (or, in some cases, fails to act), they might be liable for injuries. For example, suppose your neighbor in the next apartment gets high and forgets to turn off the stove, causing a fire that damages your property. Their negligent behavior could be grounds for a lawsuit. It doesn't matter whether weed is legal or not. They are still responsible for their negligent behavior when it leads to someone else's losses.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Get for an Injury That Involves Marijuana?
Depending on the circumstances of your case and which state you live in, you could be entitled to sue for the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Property loss
- Vehicle repairs or replacement
- Lost wages due to the accident
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
The state you live in doesn't have anything to do with whether weed is legal or not as far as compensation goes. Instead, when we use your state as a condition of what kind of damages you can sue for, it has more to do with state car insurance laws. For example, in no-fault car insurance states, you cannot get pain and suffering unless your injuries meet a certain threshold. Likewise, no-fault state laws dictate that you use your personal injury protection insurance to pay for medical expenses and lost wages because fault doesn't matter. However, if an impaired driver causes an accident, they will most certainly be penalized by the criminal justice system.
Contact Morgan and Morgan for Legal Matters Concerning Legal Recreational Weed Use
We understand there are conflicting sides to the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Whether you believe you were illegally fired from your job, you suffered an injury from a marijuana product, or you were hurt in a marijuana DUI accident, Morgan and Morgan have the legal experts to help. You deserve to be compensated when someone else's negligence or illegal actions negatively affects your life. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. There is no risk and no obligation.