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If you use cannabis after work in Wisconsin, you can be fired. Cannabis is illegal in Wisconsin except for some forms of CBD with a physician’s prescription.    

Wisconsin Employment laws

There are two main types of employment in Wisconsin. You can be an employee at will or a contract employee.    

At-Will Employment:  

This means the employer can fire the employee at any time for any reason or no reason. The only grounds to challenge being fired in this situation are if your civil rights are violated, labor law is violated, or there is a public policy exception. Discrimination statutes protect employees from having employment decisions made solely based on factors such as:  

  • Color  
  • Religion  
  • Sex  
  • Race  
  • Age  
  • Disability  
  • Veteran Status  
Employees working in a factory

Employees in these classes may have a lawsuit if it can be shown that employment decisions were made based solely on the employee having one of these statuses.    

Public policy exceptions to firing employees will also provide protections. Even an employee at will can be wrongfully terminated if the termination violates a public policy of their state. For example, an employee cannot be fired for refusing to engage in illegal activity or for filing a worker’s compensation claim. Most states believe these public policies are essential to upholding the good of society. Therefore, an employer cannot violate a state’s public policy when firing an employee.   For the most up to date info on Wisconsin Employment law read our article, Wisconsin Employment and Labor Law Changes.  

Although these protections exist for at-will employees, cannabis use is not a protected area in Wisconsin. If you are an at-will employee, you can be fired for using marijuana after work in Wisconsin.    

Contract Employment:

A contract employee is an employee who has signed an employment agreement with the employer that outlines all the employment details. Some of the terms commonly included in an employment contract opposed to an at-will employee are:  

  • Non-compete clauses  
  • Arbitration clauses  
  • Confidentiality agreements  

A contract employee can typically only be fired for “good cause”. A good cause is typically something associated with the needs of the business. Some examples of good causes are:  

  • Insubordination  
  • Poor performance  
  • Illegal acts  
  • Violating company policies  
  • Absences  
  • Harassment  
  • Threats  

If you are a contract employee in Wisconsin, it is unlikely that your employment contract will protect you from being terminated for cause if you are caught using cannabis after work. This is due to the fact that cannabis is illegal in Wisconsin, and therefore you would be engaging in an illegal act that would fall under the good cause clause of most employment contracts.    

Cannabis Laws in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has legalized cannabidiol, or (CBD) to patients with a physician’s prescription. CBD is a derivative produced from a species of cannabis that has been shown to have some beneficial effects without causing the sensation of getting “high”. In 2017 the Wisconsin Senate passed Senate Bill 10, which allowed any Wisconsin citizen to possess and use CBD if they have their physician certify that it is being used to treat any medical condition.    

Products made with Delta 8 THC are technically not illegal in Wisconsin due to this being a newer synthesized product created from CBD; however, there are some grey areas on the topic. Any use of cannabis without a physician’s prescription could put you at risk for termination of employment in Wisconsin.    

Wisconsin Decriminalize Cannabis  

Multiple cities in Wisconsin have also decriminalized marijuana. This typically means that if you possess a relatively small amount for personal use, you will be cited with an ordinance violation. The cities that have decriminalized marijuana in Wisconsin are:  

  • Madison  
  • Appleton  
  • Eau Claire  
  • Green Bay  
  • Kenosha  
  • La Crosse  
  • Marshfield  
  • Milwaukee  
  • Racine  
  • Waukesha  
  • Wausau  

Most of these cities will not refer criminal charges if the amount possessed is less than 25 grams, so if a substantial amount of marijuana is being possessed, you may still be criminally charged in these cities.    

Wisconsin Marijuana Penalties  

Throughout the rest of Wisconsin, marijuana laws are typically enforced, and the penalties can be very severe. The penalties in Wisconsin related to marijuana are:  

Possession  

  • A first offense is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.  
  • A second and subsequent offenses are a Felony with a maximum sentence of 3.5 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.    

Possession of Marijuana paraphernalia  

This is a misdemeanor with maximum penalties of:  

  • Thirty days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.  

Sale of marijuana, Delivery of marijuana, possession with the intent to distribute marijuana  

The penalties in this category are based on the amount possessed with penalty enhancers for subsequent offenses. All these charges are Felonies, and the maximum penalties are as follows:  

  • 200 grams or less is 3.5 years in prison, $10,000 fine, or both.  
  • 200 to 1000 grams is 6 years in prison, $10,000 fine, or both.  
  • 1000 to 2500 grams is 10 years in prison, $25,000 fine, or both.  
  • 2500 to 10,000 grams is 12.5 years in prison, $25,000 fine, or both.  
  • More than 10,000 grams is 15 years in prison, a $50,000 fine, or both.  

In addition to these penalties, all items used in the commission of sale or distribution, including vehicles, are subject to forfeiture to the state.    

Depending on the charge, your license can be suspended for between 6 months and five years. This penalty could be added to the charge even if a vehicle was not involved in the sale or distribution of marijuana.

Cannabis plants in a greenhouse

Cultivation of Marijuana  

Any form of cultivation of marijuana is a Felony in Wisconsin, with subsequent charges also carrying penalty enhancers. The maximum penalties are based on the number of plants being cultivated, and the penalties are:  

  • 4 plants or fewer is 3. 5 years in prison, $10,000 fine, or both.    
  • 4 to 20 plants are 6 years in prison, $10,000 fine, or both.  
  • 20 to 50 plants are 10 years in prison, $25,000 fine or both  
  • 50 to 200 plants are 12.5 years in prison, $25,000 fine or both  
  • More than 200 plants are 15 years in prison, $50,000 fine, or both.    

In Wisconsin, you can be fired if you use cannabis after work, whether you are an at-will employee or a contract employee.    

Posted 
January 24, 2023
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