Work it Out Blog

Marijuana Legalization: Impact on the Workplace?

Jul 14, 2015 by Jill C. McQueen

With a number of states already legalizing the use of marijuana, and Ohio moving toward a ballot issue in November, employers are understandably concerned about the consequences a change in the law could have on workplace safety.  If passed, the measure would amend the Ohio Constitution to permit both medical and recreational use of marijuana.  What would marijuana legalization mean to private employers’ rights to drug test and to enforce drug policies?

A recent Colorado court case may provide insight—and some reassurance for employers.  The case was brought by a customer service representative who was fired after failing a workplace drug test.  The former employee, a quadriplegic and a user of state-licensed medical marijuana, said that the drug helped with painful muscle spasms, and that he used marijuana only during non-work hours. 

In his lawsuit, the terminated worker argued that his discharge violated a Colorado law that protects employees who engage in lawful off-duty conduct.  That state’s highest court resolved the matter in favor of the employer, saying that the state’s law does not protect individuals who engage in an activity that is permitted by state statute but is still prohibited by federal law.  The United States Congress has deemed marijuana to be a dangerous drug, and the Department of Justice continues to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act accordingly.  

Day Ketterer’s attorneys are monitoring developments within Ohio.  For questions about drug testing and enforcement of disciplinary policies, contact Jill McQueen, or your Day Ketterer attorney, at 330-455-0173 or

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for any purpose. This blog is not intended to present an exhaustive summary of all applicable laws, or to take the place of legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding the law, please contact us for assistance.