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Can I get fired for smoking legal marijuana in New Jersey?

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Weed Sales

Customers wait in line on the first day of legal cannabis sales at The Botanist in Egg Harbor Township.

But for some cannabis consumers, it also brought questions. Chiefly, whether employers can test you for marijuana and whether finding weed in your system is grounds for taking away your job. And, like with everything else under our current patchwork system of state and federal marijuana laws, it can be pretty confusing.

In short, the answer is yes and no. Generally, New Jersey’s marijuana laws do allow employers in the Garden State to drug test current and prospective employees — and they can still discipline you if you possess or use marijuana on the job or come to work impaired.

But, by law, there can’t be any “adverse employment consequence” — like, in most cases, getting fired or not hiring you — if you fail a drug test for marijuana alone, Ami Kachalia, campaign strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, told The Inquirer last year. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the principle element of marijuana that produces a high, can stay in your system for much longer than other drugs, making it difficult to test for impairment in the moment.

So if you test positive for marijuana on a drug test mandated by your employer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you were under the influence on the job — which is something your employer would have to prove to discipline you in most cases. To do that, workplaces need to use a Workplace Impairment Recognition Expert, or “WIRE,” to examine you and determine that you are impaired.

But at the moment, the New Jersey Law Journal says, the state has not yet set standards on the use of WIREs in the workplace. So the process — and their potential impact — is not exactly clear.

For some professions, there may be rules that prohibit you from using marijuana even off the clock, such as if you work for the federal government, or at a job that must follow certain federal regulations.

Additionally, if you have a marijuana-related record, you can’t be fired or denied a job because of that record, DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative council for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Inquirer last year. Those records, he said, can’t be used to “deprive rights or privileges under the law,” which includes things like professional licenses.

And if your record comes from an arrest in New Jersey, it may have already been expunged in July 2021, when the state’s Marijuana Decriminalization Law took effect. To see if your case was expunged, you can go to the court where your case was heard and ask for confirmation. Confirmation, the New Jersey Courts system says online, must be requested in person.

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