Recently on June 8th, Ohio passed legislation legalizing the use of medicinal marijuana, becoming the 25th state to do so. This law became effective on September 6th. Physicians are now able to recommend medicinal marijuana to individuals diagnosed with a number of qualifying conditions and diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Cancer, Glaucoma, and Tourette’s Syndrome. Though the use of medical marijuana is now legal, the smoking of marijuana is still prohibited. Qualified users may consume marijuana by edibles, vaporizers, tinctures, patches, plant materials, and oils. Marijuana cultivators, processors, dispensaries, laboratories, and registration of physicians all must have state licensure.
For the Department of Justice, the legalization of medical marijuana means that they will no longer attempt to prosecute medicinal marijuana distributors or challenge state laws. But what does this mean for employers?
Employers are protected by several of the law’s safeguards. For example, employers do not have to permit or accommodate employees’ use, possession, or distribution of their medical marijuana. Additionally, employers can refuse to hire, discharge, discipline, or take on other adverse employment action to an employee’s marijuana use, possession, or distribution. Employers’ rights remain to establish and enforce drug-free work policies, and employees and applicants may not sue employers for adverse action based on medical marijuana use. Formal drug-free workplace programs are also welcome, where employers have a “Just Cause” to discharge an employee for violating a drug-free workplace policy involving medical marijuana. This means the discharged employee would be ineligible for unemployment compensation. Lastly, employers may defend against workers’ compensation claims if medical marijuana contributed to or resulted in an injury.
While Ohio has passed groundbreaking legislation along with 24 other states, employers can rest assured that they are still protected under the state law’s safeguards. For specific cases in question, please consult with your legal advice.