Medical Marijuana is Finally Rolling Out – Are Employers Ready?

At this time of year, businesses often revise their employment policies to be consistent with new laws that frequently go into effect at the beginning of a new year. While Ohio does not have any significant new employment laws going into effect in January, one thing that will be different is that medical marijuana will soon be available. John Kasich signed the medical marijuana bill into law way back in 2016, but it has taken over two years for the marijuana business to be developed in Ohio. Registration for medical marijuana cards went live on December 3, and qualified patients will be able to obtain medical marijuana within weeks.

Many employers may be concerned that once qualified employees have access to legal and accessible marijuana, they will start coming into work under the influence, affecting both safety and productivity in the process. They likely don’t need to worry, though – Ohio’s medical marijuana law has built in several protections for employers.

Nothing in the new medical marijuana law:

  • Requires employers to permit or accommodate an employee’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana;
  • Prohibits employers from disciplining, terminating, refusing to hire, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action because of that person’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana;
  • Prohibits employers from establishing and enforcing a drug testing policy, drug-free workplace policy, or zero-tolerance drug policy;
  • Interferes with any federal laws (remember, marijuana use, medical or otherwise, is still illegal under federal law);
  • Permits an employee to sue an employer for disciplining, terminating, refusing to hire, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action because of that person’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana.

The law even goes so far as to say that “[a] person who is discharged from employment because of that person’s use of medical marijuana shall be considered to have been discharged for just cause … if the person’s use of medical marijuana was in violation of an employer’s drug-free workplace policy, zero-tolerance policy, or other formal program or policy regulating the use of medical marijuana.”

Ohio employers who are uncomfortable with the prospect of employees using medical marijuana at or before work should review their employment policies and determine their stance toward medical marijuana use now that it will finally be widely available across the state.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP is a large, full-service law firm that seeks to take a more entrepreneurial and cost-effective approach both to client service and its own business.

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