HR Administration

Are You Ready for Medical Marijuana?

By Jon Hyman

Apr. 18, 2016

Sooner rather than later, medical marijuana will be a reality in Ohio. Currently, there are three separate efforts to enact this law: two ballot initiatives and one piece of legislation.

What does this mean for Ohio employers? Let’s start with the legislation, HB 523.

HB 523 [pdf] contains protections for employers to regulate the use of legally prescribed marijuana by their employees:

Nothing in this chapter does any of the following:

  1. Requires an employer to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana;
  2. Prohibits an employer from refusing to hire, discharging, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s use of medical marijuana;
  3. Affects the authority of the administrator of workers’ compensation to grant rebates or discounts on premium rates to employers that participate in a drug-free workplace program established in accordance with rules adopted by the administrator under Chapter 4123. of the Revised Code. 

A person who is discharged from employment because of that person’s use of medical marijuana shall be considered to have been discharged for just cause for purposes of [eligibility for unemployment compensation].

Compare that language to each of Ohio’s two ballot initiatives (here and here), both of which are targeted for this November’s ballot, and neither of which contain any protections for employers whatsoever.

Legal medical marijuana is coming to Ohio. It’s already legal in 25 other states, plus the District of Columbia. Ohio is just a matter of time. Just because it’s inevitable, however, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to get it right. The right of employers to maintain a drug-free workplace must be protected; I am concerned that HB 523 won’t pass before November, and we will end up with one of the two employer-silent ballot initiatives.

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

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