Amended Medical Marijuana Bill Offers Employers Higher Protections

By Jon Hyman

May. 5, 2016

Last month, I reported on the introduction of Ohio House Bill 523, which would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio. I suggested that the bill’s protections for employers, which go further than those of either of the two competing November ballot measures, are a good start, but would likely need some tweaks to provide employers all of the protections they need.

Yesterday, employers got some much needed help, with an amended HB 523 [pdf], which significantly expands the rights of employers in regard to employees legally using marijuana.

The bill, as it now reads still would not require an employer to permit or accommodate an employee’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana. It also, however, would offer the following clear and unambiguous protections for employers.

  • It would permit an employer to refuse to hire, discharge, discipline, or otherwise take an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana;
  • It would permit an employer to establish and enforce a drug testing policy, drug-free workplace policy, or zero-tolerance drug policy;
  • It would not interfere with any federal restrictions on employment, including the regulations adopted by the United States department of transportation for drivers;
  • It would prohibit a person from commencing a cause of action against an employer for refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, discriminating, retaliating, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment related to medical marijuana;
  • It would not impact rebates or discounts on workers’ compensation premium rates to employers that participate in a drug-free workplace program; and
  • It makes clear that person who is discharged from employment because of that person’s use of medical marijuana is ineligible for unemployment compensation.

According to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, HB 523 provides necessary “protections for Ohio employers by enabling them to maintain safe workplaces and enforce reasonable human resources policies.” I could not agree more.

There is no doubt that medical marijuana is coming to Ohio. The question is whether it is coming via this business friendly legislation, or via the either of the business-vague ballot initiatives that would impose hard to change constitutional amendments and leave employers exposed or completely unprotected (depending on the initiative).

Last time I wrote on this issue, I opened a hail storm of a debate. I can’t wait to read the comments this time.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at

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