HR Management & Compliance

Understanding the Impact of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Law on Employers

Ohio’s new medical marijuana law, which takes effect on Saturday, September 8, should spur employers to evaluate their workplace policies.

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The Ohio law requires a physician’s recommendation for marijuana use by patients with one of 21 specified medical conditions, including cancer and chronic pain. The drug can be used only in the forms of edibles, oils, patches, or vaporizers. Smoking and growing it at home are prohibited.

Under the law, employers aren’t required to accommodate or permit medical marijuana use in the workplace, although they may choose to do so. If an employer chooses not to accommodate or permit medical marijuana, it can still establish and enforce drug testing, a drug-free workplace, or a zero-tolerance policy. Also, employers retain the right to take adverse action against employees and applicants who use, possess, or distribute medical marijuana.

Employees and applicants can’t sue employers for retaliation for medical marijuana use or possession, and any employee fired under a workplace policy that prohibits marijuana use won’t receive unemployment benefits. Also, employees won’t be eligible for workers’ compensation if their injury was a result of being under the influence of medical marijuana.

Best Practices

Recommended best practices for complying with the state’s medical marijuana law include:

  • Revise existing policies to address medical marijuana clearly. Policies should be clear, uniform, and communicated to employees.
  • Emphasize through policy and practice that any medical marijuana use compromising workplace safety won’t be tolerated.
  • If you choose to drug-test, determine whether a positive test will result in adverse action for medical marijuana users.
  • Train managers and HR employees to identify and document employee impairment.

For more information on Ohio’s medical marijuana law, see the August issue of Ohio Employment Law Letter.

Arslan S. Sheikh is an attorney with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP in Columbus, Ohio. He can be reached at asheikh@porterwright.com.