Signed into law on June 8, 2016 by former Governor John Kasich, Ohio’s medical marijuana law became operational in January 2019. But what does the law mean for Ohio employers, job applicants and employees?
First, Ohio’s law does not legalize marijuana for recreational use. The legalized medical use of marijuana is limited to patients with a specified number of medical conditions. Ohio has established registration requirements for medical marijuana patients and caregivers.
Ohio’s medical marijuana law allows patients diagnosed with one or more of approximately 20 qualifying medical conditions (including HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, cancer, PTSD, etc.) to purchase and use medical marijuana only if they are properly registered with the State of Ohio and who possess an Ohio-issued patient or caregiver identification card.
Ohio permits registered patients to use medical marijuana via oils, tinctures or extracts, plant material, edibles (food containing THC) and patches. Vaporization of medical marijuana also is permitted but smoking and other combustion of medical marijuana are not allowed. Medical marijuana products must be dispensed by a retailer licensed by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.
Marijuana and federal law
While Ohio and over 30 other states have legalized the possession and use of marijuana for certain medical conditions, marijuana remains a “Schedule I” controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substance Act.
It remains illegal for physicians to “prescribe” marijuana and can only “recommend” its use. Ohioans who use medical marijuana are violating federal criminal law, consequences for which include possible fines and imprisonment. Continuing a stance taken by the Obama Administration, the federal government has purposely avoided enforcing these types of “low level” violations as the legalized marijuana movement has unfolded at the state level.
In the workplace
Ohio’s medical marijuana law does not require employers to accommodate job applicants’ or employees’ use, possession, distribution, being under the influence of or testing positive for medical marijuana. Ohio employers can discharge, discipline, refuse to hire or take any other disciplinary action against an applicant or employee because of those circumstances.
For Ohio employers who maintain a zero-tolerance policy, medical marijuana users will either choose to not use medical marijuana or to work elsewhere. However, as Ohio employers begin to see more applicants and employees who are lawfully using medical marijuana, some employers may decide, as a practical business matter, to make an exception for specific off-the-job and off-premises use of medical marijuana. Ohio’s law does provide that flexibility for employers.
As the application of the law, and experience with its operation, continue across the state, changes may be made to modify its provisions and to reflect what is learned by both law enforcement and medical professionals.
This article is intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended as legal advice.