Work it Out Blog

Ohio Legalizes Medical Marijuana: Review Your Workplace Rules

Jul 13, 2016 by Jill C. McQueen

In June, Governor John Kasich signed into law a plan to legalize medical marijuana use.  People with qualifying medical conditions—including seizure disorders, cancer, PTSD, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, and fibromyalgia, to name a few—and people suffering from chronic or severe pain will be able to obtain and use marijuana with a doctor’s referral.

The new law will not allow individuals to grow marijuana at home for personal use.  In the coming months, the Ohio Department of Commerce will issue rules governing those who may cultivate and dispense the substance. 

Employers may wonder what this means for their drug-free workplace policies and rules.  May an employer continue to prohibit the use of marijuana at work, even after employees obtain the drug by lawful means?

The answer is clearly “yes.”  The new law is careful to preserve the rights of employers to enforce their rules.  Specifically, the new law:

  • Does not require an employer to permit or accommodate an employee’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana;
  • Does not prohibit refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, 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, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana;
  • Does not prohibit an employer from establishing and enforcing a drug testing policy, drug-free workplace policy, or zero-tolerance drug policy.

Now is a good time to review workplace rules.  Many employment policies currently in place contain language forbidding the use of “alcohol and illegal drugs.”  Once the use of medical marijuana is legal, such language may lead to confusion, and allow for an argument that medical marijuana is not covered by the prohibition.  Employers who wish to regulate the use of drugs at work to the full extent permitted by law should ensure that their rules explicitly apply to marijuana in both its illegal and legal forms.

Day Ketterer's employment law attorneys can answer your questions regarding employment policies. Contact us at 330.455.0173 or info@dayketterer.com.

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.