Will Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Law Protect You In The Workplace?

Posted On: August 15th, 2016 by Bradley J. Groene

With the passage of H.B. 523, Ohio became the 25th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana. Governor John Kasich signed the bill on June 8, 2016, and the law will take effect on September 6, 2016. However, it could take up to two years for the Ohio Department of Commerce to fully implement the law. This means that patients with one or more of the approximately 20 qualifying medical conditions and physician approval may have to wait a long time before they are able to legally purchase medical marijuana from state-established dispensaries.

Employer-Protective Provisions of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Law

For patients seeking to use marijuana under H.B. 523, it is important to be aware of the various employer-protective provisions of the law and how they may impact your workplace. The law includes the following provisions:

  • Employers may establish and enforce drug-free workplace and zero-tolerance policies.
  • Employers may terminate employees for the use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana.
  • Marijuana use, even for medical purposes, remains illegal under federal law. Employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additionally, employers are not required to provide leave under FMLA for the purpose of medical marijuana use to treat a serious health condition.
  • Employees cannot sue employers for adverse employment actions based on the use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana.
  • Employees terminated for using medical marijuana in violation of drug-free or drug testing workplace policies will be deemed terminated “for just cause” meaning that they will be ineligible for unemployment benefits.
  • If employees are under the influence of marijuana at the time of an injury and the injury is caused by being under the influence, they will be ineligible for worker’s compensation benefits. This is consistent with existing Ohio law, which provides an employer the right to use a positive drug screen following a workplace accident to challenge a worker’s compensation claim on the basis of intoxication.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation drug and alcohol testing regulations remain in effect and Ohio’s medical marijuana law does not authorize its use to be a valid explanation for a positive drug test result.

While states like Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island have passed laws preventing patients from being terminated for using medical marijuana, Ohio’s state legislature has chosen not to do so. As the previously-mentioned provisions make clear, qualifying patients who use medical marijuana can lose their job regardless of whether such use is permitted under state law.

How An Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You

While patients who qualify for the use of medical marijuana under H.B. 523 will have to wait until September for the new law to take effect, it remains to be seen where they can obtain the medication. It is important to keep in mind that even with the passage of Ohio’s medical marijuana law, the possession and use of recreational marijuana is still illegal.

If you have been charged with a marijuana or drug-related crime, contact the Ohio criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates at (513) 338-1890 right away to learn about your legal rights.