While acceptance of medical marijuana use continues to grow across the country, mixed messages about the controlled substance from federal and state governments have created a legal gray area that both workers and employers must navigate in the workplace.
In case it wasn’t already clear, the results of the 2018 midterm elections made it known that medical marijuana is no longer a fringe issue. Ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana both passed easily in Missouri and Utah, while another proposition made cannabis fully legal in the state of Michigan. In Ohio, five cities — Dayton, Fremont, Norwood, Oregon, and Windham — passed marijuana decriminalization measures of their own.
Though medical marijuana is now legal in Ohio, some grey areas remain, including whether employees are allowed to use cannabis in the workplace. Depending on your workplace’s regulations, you may be able to use medical marijuana during work hours, or cannabis use may be prohibited.
Here’s what medical marijuana users in the state need to know about their protections as employees under the law.
Medical Marijuana in Ohio
According to current state laws, employers are not required to accommodate the use of medical marijuana. This means that your boss can make hiring and firing decisions based on its use, as well as conduct drug tests. In addition, people who are terminated because they tested positive for marijuana won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits, provided that their employer has explicitly prohibited the use of the drug in their policy. Even those who are permitted to use it can be prohibited from taking cannabis during certain activities, like operating heavy machinery.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects many of the conditions that medical marijuana is frequently prescribed to treat, including permanent nerve damage and seizure disorders, the law explicitly disqualifies employees “engaging in the use of illegal drugs.” Because marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 substance, it likely won’t be protected by the ADA under Ohio law.
That being said, all of this is subject to change. The legal environment for medical marijuana in states and cities across the country is rapidly evolving, leaving it highly dependent on both the actions of the courts. Recent high-profile legal cases surrounding medical marijuana have tended to rule in favor of employees, and although it’s unlikely that we’ll see major changes in Ohio’s judicial system anytime soon, it’s something to keep an eye out for.
Guidelines for Moving Forward
For Ohio residents, this is all to say that while the future of medical marijuana looks bright, those who are currently prescribed it should proceed with caution with regard using it while on the job. If you have or are looking to get a prescription for cannabis in order to treat a medical condition, consider the following guidelines before clocking into work:
– Find out if your workplace has a policy on medical marijuana. You can take a look at your company handbook to see if it has anything on the subject, or you can ask your HR department directly.
– Certain professions, including ones where workers are required to operate machinery or are responsible for other people (e.g. childcare or healthcare), may be prohibited from using medical marijuana. Think about your office environment and whether or not the use of medical cannabis is compatible with your responsibilities.
– Your doctor can always consult you on the best path forward. Make sure to talk to a medical professional about where and when you should take the medical marijuana that he or she prescribes to you.
The Bottom Line
Although recent legislation in several Ohio cities represents a step forward for medical marijuana, employees aren’t yet fully cleared to use the controlled substance while on the job. Ohioans who are curious about medical marijuana should first work to understand their employer’s policy on the medication, then schedule a consultation with the Lakewood Medical Clinic.