Implications of Medical Marijuana in the Workplace February 9, 2017

By Ann-Marie Ahern

You may have heard that with the enactment of Ohio House Bill 523, marijuana is now legal in Ohio for the treatment of certain medical conditions. And, you may be wondering how the law affects your employer’s drug free workplace policy found in your employee handbook.

Under Ohio law, your employer’s drug free workplace policy, including any provisions regarding drug testing, may remain in full force and effect.  Nothing within Ohio’s new law prevents an employer from prohibiting use, possession or distribution of marijuana, even for employees who have been diagnosed with a disability and prescribed medicinal marijuana. An employer may still take disciplinary action against an individual for violating its drug policy, even with a prescription. Likewise, employers retain the right to refuse to hire based on an individual’s use, possession or distribution of marijuana.

If an employee is discharged because of medical marijuana use, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will likely deem the discharge as one for “just cause,” which will likely result in a denial of unemployment benefits.  Similarly, if an employee were to suffer a workplace injury that was caused by the use of medical marijuana, the employee would likely not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure if the potential use, possession or distribution of legalized medical marijuana violates your employment agreement, consult your employee handbook or discuss the matter with your employer before taking any action that may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

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