House Bill 523 passed by Governor John Kasich on June 8, 2016 legalizes medical marijuana use in Ohio. Effective September 6, 2016, authorized licensed physicians are able to recommend the use of medical marijuana to someone with a qualifying medical condition which consists for chronic and severe illnesses. Under this bill, consumption is limited to oil, edibles, and patches.
While smoking and growing marijuana is still prohibited, employers are concerned with possible implications.
Kevin Neudecker, Compliance Manager for Corporate Screening, a Cleveland, Ohio-based provider of global background screening, answers some of the frequently asked questions regarding Ohio’s new medical marijuana law.
1. What does this mean for Ohio employers?
Neudecker: The good news is the law was designed to have minimal effect on employers in Ohio.
2. Are employers required to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana?
Neudecker: No, the law specifically states an employer is not required to “permit or accommodate an employee’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana.”
3. How are employers expected to comply with legislation?
Neudecker: Employers should review their policies related to drug testing to account for the potential use of medical marijuana by their employees.
The law allows for any employer to have policies against the use of medical marijuana; however, some employers may wish to adjust their policies to accommodate individuals that qualify to receive medical marijuana.
Though, this may effect an employer’s qualification to promote and receive benefits as drug-free workplace.
Others may be mandated by federal safety guidelines like the Department of Transportation that require testing for federally regulated substances and marijuana is still considered a controlled substance on a federal level.
4. What kind of protections do employers have under this law?
Neudecker: Employees or applicants do NOT have the right to file suit against an employer for refusing to hire, disciplining, retaliating, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person related to medical marijuana.
A person discharged from employment for the use of medical marijuana shall be “considered to have been discharged for just cause,” if the use is in violation of the employer’s drug-free workplace policy.
5. Would legal medical marijuana users still be subject to drug tests?
Neudecker: The law does not restrict an employer from “establishing and enforcing a drug testing policy, drug-free workplace policy or zero-tolerance drug policy.”
Since marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, drug tests that include medical marijuana in the testing panel will still be returned as positive on a drug test even if the donor has a valid prescription.
6. How does this effect the drug testing process for employers?
Neudecker: It’s really up to the employer. The protections in the law for employers allow them to continue their programs as they stand today, though employers should account for medical marijuana in their policies.
Those employers that drug test due to industry or legal guidelines must continue those programs.
In short, the impact on employers is minimal, any employer should review their drug testing policies and procedures with their legal counsel to account for this change to Ohio law.
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