How Ohio’s New Medical Marijuana Law Impacts Employer Drug Policies

By now, you may have heard about Governor Kasich’s signing of Ohio HB 523, the bill that legalizes certain usages of Medical Marijuana in Ohio for medical purposes.  The following is a summary of provisions that the bill integrated under the federal Controlled Substance Act to protect employers:

  • Employers may still implement and enforce drug testing as well as drug-free workplace policies;
  • Employers do not need to permit or accommodate an employee’s use, possession or distribution of medical marijuana;
  • Employers are not prohibited from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person because of the person’s use, possession, or distribution o
    f medical marijuana.
  • Employees who are prescribed to use medical marijuana are ineligible for unemployment compensation if the use is in violation of the employer’s workplace policies;
  • Employees who are medical marijuana users are ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they were under the influence of marijuana at the time the injury occurred or if being under the influence was the proximate cause of the injury;
  • The medial marijuana can only be dispensed via oils, patches, pills, or vaporization; smoking marijuana is expressly prohibited; and
  • Registered patients and caregivers are immune from prosecution for the use or possession of medical marijuana.

Under marijuanaOhio’s Unemployment Compensation Law, Ohio employees who are dismissed for violating the medical marijuana usage policy will be viewed as “discharged for just cause”.  As a consequence, individuals who have been terminated for their medical marijuana usage will most likely be barred from receiving unemployment benefits.

Marijuana is
still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it is federally illegal and considered to have no medicinal value, therefore employers are not required to accommodate its use under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Yet employers may still need to accommodate the medical condition that underlies the marijuana use if such use can be accommodated under the ADA.

Communicating expectations to workers is important for success within the workplace. Employers need to make it clear to their employees that as long as marijuana is illegal under federal law, it will be illegal within the workplace, whether or not it is legal under state law. Simply barring illegal behavior saves an employer from a dispute over when the marijuana use occurred since drug tests solely show whether or not an employee has used marijuana, not when the usage occurred.  Though the effective date of Ohio HB 523 is September 6, 2016, it is possible that it will take up to two years for the Medical Marijuana Control Program to set clear guidelines for employees.  Nonetheless, employers can and should prepare now for the impact of Ohio HB 523 sooner rather than later.   For questions about Ohio’s Medical Marijuana laws and other employment matters, please contact Matt Stokely at 937-223-1130 or email him at mstokely@pselaw.com.

AUTHOR: Matt Stokely
mstokely@pselaw.com