Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Act: What You Need to Know

August 9, 2016

By Melissa A. Yasinow

medical marijuana

The decriminalization of marijuana, for both medical and recreational purposes, at the state level has been a fast-growing trend. In July 2015, KJK reported on a decision from the Colorado Supreme Court—which had held that employers could terminate employees that lawfully used medical marijuana —and advised employers on how the eventual legalization of marijuana in Ohio could impact their business.

On June 8, 2016, Governor John Kasich signed HB523—Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Act—into law. The law will go into effect on September 8, 2016. This new law controls a wide variety of issues related to medical marijuana, including, but not limited to: who can prescribe it, who can use it, how it can be used, and where it can be purchased. Also, Ohio’s new Medical Marijuana Program will be overseen by the Ohio Department of Commerce, the Ohio State Medical Board, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, and a newly created Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee.

Medical Marijuana and Employers:
Marijuana is legal for medical and/or recreational purposes in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Under the new Ohio law, residents with marijuana prescriptions will not be criminally prosecuted for their use and possession of marijuana under certain conditions.

Federally, however, marijuana is and remains an illegal Schedule I drug, which is defined as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

Under Ohio’s new law, employers may terminate, discipline, or refuse to hire employees who legally use, possess, and/or distribute medical marijuana. If an employee is discharged because of their use of medical marijuana, and an employer has a formal drug-free workplace policy in place, then that employee shall not be entitled to any unemployment compensation. Further, employees may not bring suit against their employers because they were fired or retaliated against for their otherwise lawful use of medical marijuana. Finally, Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Act amends Ohio’s workers’ compensation laws so that an employee who lawfully uses medical marijuana may be denied workers’ compensation benefits if the influence of the medical marijuana proximately caused the employee’s on-the-job injury.

Although Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Act goes into effect starting on September 8, it will take months, if not up to two (2) years, for all of the Act’s rules to be finalized, including the establishment of Ohio’s marijuana dispensaries. For example, Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, which is tasked with developing regulations for the new marijuana program, will not even be appointed until thirty (30) days after the law’s effective date. One can expect that, in the interim, medical marijuana may be used in Ohio by persons who acquire it legally in another state, or who acquire it illegally in Ohio. It is recommended that employers use the upcoming months to evaluate and put in place policies regarding drug use.

Should you have any questions or concerns about how Ohio’s new Medical Marijuana Act may impact you or your business, contact KJK’s Advise Service Group.