In case you missed it, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill last month making Ohio the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. This change in the law (effective September 8, 2016) comes following a failed Ohio ballot initiative in November 2015 to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana, backed by celebrity investors such as 98 Degrees front man Nick Lachey and NBA legend Oscar Robertson. And unlike many other marijuana laws that have created a haze as to their application, the Ohio bill creates no such fog.
While many state laws have left employers scratching their heads regarding the exact impact of the legalization of medical marijuana on the workplace, the Ohio law provides clear guidance to employers. Specifically, the Ohio law does not encompass the following restrictions or regulations:
- Requires an employer to permit or accommodate an employee’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana
- Prohibits an employer from 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
- Prohibits an employer from establishing and enforcing a drug testing policy, drug-free workplace policy, or zero-tolerance drug policy
- Interferes with any federal restrictions on employment, including the Department of Transportation regulations
- Permits a person to commence 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
- 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
The Ohio law also makes it clear that an employee’s discharge for medical marijuana use will be considered a just cause discharge for purposes of unemployment benefits if the employee’s use of medical marijuana was in violation of an employer’s drug-free workplace policy, zero-tolerance policy, or other formal program or policy regulating the use of medical marijuana.
Employers in Ohio should “cherish” the fact that Governor Kasich, and not Nick Lachey, brought medical marijuana to Ohio.