For several states across the U.S., the new year means new marijuana laws taking effect—touching on policies that range from employment protections to packaging requirements.
As of Monday, cannabis legislation affecting at least five states will take effect, the product of a busy 2023 legislative season that saw major changes to marijuana laws throughout the country.
Advocates are already gearing up for a fresh push to expand on reform achievements in 2024, but consumers, regulators and stakeholders should also be mindful of the changes that are being implemented at the start of the year.
Here’s a rundown of the marijuana laws that take effect on Monday:
California and Washington State implement cannabis-related workplace protections
Under two pieces of legislation signed into law in 2022 and 2023, California employers are now prohibited from asking job applicants about past cannabis use, and most are barred from penalizing employees over lawful use of marijuana outside of the job.
In Washington State, meanwhile, the newly effective law will protect workers from facing employment discrimination during the hiring process over their lawful use of cannabis.
With certain exceptions, “it is unlawful for an employer to request information from an applicant for employment relating to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis,” one of the California laws says.
The separate complementary legislation that Gov.Gavin Newsom (D) signed in 2022 says it is unlawful for employers “to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalizing a person, if the discrimination is based upon” off-duty marijuana use or drug tests that reveal cannabinoid metabolites.
There are exceptions to the policy for workers “in the building and construction trades,” as well as those that require federal background checks and security clearances.
The Washington legislation is limited to job applicants. As Gov. Jay Inslee (D) noted before signing the measure in May, employers would still be able to maintain drug-free workplaces, or prohibit the use of cannabis by workers after they are hired.
Nevada’s possession limit more than doubles as businesses expand operations
Effective Monday, the marijuana possession limit for adults in Nevada will more than double to 2.5 ounces, as recreational retailers become authorized to serve medical cannabis patients as well, without a separate license.
The policy changes are coming into effect under a large-scale marijuana reform bill that Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) signed into law in June. The legislation also broadens eligibility for participation in the market by people with prior felony convictions.
One of the key provisions of the law increases the possession and purchase limit for cannabis from one ounce to 2.5 ounces. The amount of cannabis concentrates that adults can possess is also being doubled from one-eighth of an ounce to one-quarter of an ounce.
Also, it makes it so adult-use marijuana retailers will no longer need to have a separate medical cannabis license to serve patients. Recreational retailers will automatically serve as dual licensees.
Regulators will no longer be able to issue or renew medical marijuana licenses after Monday—unless the applicant is located in a jurisdiction that has opted out of permitting adult-use facilities. Medical cannabis patients would be exempt from the state excise tax at recreational retailers.
Virginia gets a new marijuana regulatory body
Virginia lawmakers weren’t able to pass an implementation bill to provide for regulated recreational marijuana sales by the new year as advocates had hoped, but newly effective legislation does shift regulatory responsibility for the existing medical cannabis program to the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority (CCA).
The establishment of the CCA was required under 2021 legislation that was enacted to legalize the possession and home cultivation of cannabis by adults 21 and older. Lawmakers have so far failed to pass complementary sales legislation through both chambers, though one senator says he’s “confident” they will get the job done in the coming year.
Colorado marijuana products must be labeled with “use-by” date
As of Monday, cannabis products in Colorado must feature “use-by” dates indicating that the items are best if consumed within nine months of being packaged. The policy change was put forward by regulators in 2022, giving the industry a year to adopt the new standard.
Stakeholders had successfully pushed back on an initial proposal from the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) to require a more limited six-month “use-by” date. And the mandate also says that businesses can petition for extended timelines for the best use if they can demonstrate that their product’s shelf-life is longer than nine months, as Westword reported.
The new rule becomes effective on the 10-year anniversary of the nation’s first legal adult-use marijuana sales in Colorado on January 1, 2014.
Oklahoma’s medical cannabis industry sees multiple regulatory updates
Several new laws take effect in Oklahoma on Monday that affect the state’s medical marijuana market.
That includes one measure that will authorize the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) to hire “secret shoppers” that can discreetly carry out oversight activities such as investigating regulatory compliance at cannabis businesses and providing samples from dispensaries to quality assurance labs.
For the first year, OMMA must deploy the secret shoppers to at least 50 medical marijuana dispensaries each year. By the following year, the law says that regulators must inspect at least 10 percent of randomly selected shops.
Another law that goes into effect on Monday that will allow licensed marijuana labs to formally validate their testing process, a voluntary step that’s meant to demonstrate strict compliance with various rules and objectives for labs. Also, a separate law taking effect further promotes the development of additional industry standards for labs, KOCO 5 News reports.
Additionally, an Oklahoma law becomes effect on Monday that requires regulators to develop a process to provide for the certification of workers at licensed medical cannabis businesses, ensuring that they meet minimum standards in order to maintain employment in the industry. (Full Story)