Medical marijuana not without legal responsibilities

You may believe that using marijuana is harmless. You may want to use medical marijuana to control your pain and be willing to jump through the hoops required by law to get it. That is your choice. Employers in Ohio must make the decision whether or not to allow employees to use it, on the job or on the employee’s own time.

The Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board hosted a seminar on Tuesday to educate and inform those who make the decisions about who the company is going to hire or retain. Ohio House Bill 523 will be fully operational in September. Employers need to have a good understanding about what the law says and what is in the best interests of their businesses.

Allison Sharer, a trainer with Working Partners, presented the seminar at Jobs and Family Services Community Room. HB 523 went into effect Sept. 8, 2016, legalizing medical marijuana for certain medical conditions (21 of them) including pain that is chronic, severe or intractable, PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. The legal forms of medical marijuana will be edibles, oils, patches, plant material and tinctures. It may be vaporized but it cannot be smoked or combusted, and home growth is prohibited.

The Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the State Medical Board of Ohio are involved in regulation. What you should know is that any employee under the influence of marijuana is not covered by worker’s compensation. No employer is required to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana. An employer may refuse to hire, may fire or take adverse employment action because of a person’s use of medical marijuana. The employer cannot be sued because of its policy regarding the use of medical marijuana.

Marijuana has not been approved by the FDA and is still an illegal drug under federal law. There is no prescription for marijuana anywhere in the United States. And there is no standardized measurement for impairment.

Employers have to make rational decisions about whether or not they will hire or retain employees who use medical marijuana. There are a lot of things to look at before making such a far-reaching decision. Does the business depend on grant funding that might be cut if the company decides to allow use of medical marijuana? Where does the employer stand on the issue? The union? Insurance companies? There are many aspects to consider before setting this precedent.

According to the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, “The best way employers can protect their workers and themselves is to establish a drug-free workplace, or, if they already have one, to review and update it if necessary. This is important because certain sections of the new law reference the use of medical marijuana 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.”

If an employee under the influence of medical marijuana is injured on the job, that employee is not covered by Worker’s Compensation, even if a physician recommends marijuana use.

Employers are advised to consult their human resources or legal department before allowing employees to use medical marijuana on their own or on company time. It is pertinent to understand how marijuana works. The buzz may be gone in a few hours, but the impairments can last a minimum of 24 hours.

Employers are not required to accommodate use.

Employers are allowed to test and can refuse to hire or terminate employees for use of medical marijuana.

Employers cannot be sued for refusing to allow use of medical marijuana.

It is important for employers to make a decision whether they will accommodate employees’ use of medical marijuana or not. Consequences of the decision should be considered before approving such a policy. Governing authorities should be contacted to find out what their laws state.

To learn more about medical marijuana, there are a couple of web sites to visit: www.workingpartners.com/resources/marijuana-resource-center/ and www.medicalmarijuana.Ohio.gov. A webinar of this same presentation will be held Aug. 23. For more information about the webinar, visit www.workingpartners.com/resources/marijuana-resource-center/. This is a very important decision to be made. The five action steps that are recommended by Working Partners are: 1.) Prepare to explain your decisions. 2.) Research and define operations. 3.) Declare in policy documents. 4.) Educate employees. 5.) Train supervisors.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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