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In Ohio, Can You Be Fired for Using Medical Marijuana?

January 12, 2021 • • Marijuana Laws

While employees who use medical marijuana should still tread carefully, an increasing number of laws are going into effect to protect patients.  

While marijuana has been legalized for medical use in the majority of states (as well as for recreational use in a small but growing number), patients who use cannabis can still find themselves in a bit of a sticky situation with their employers. Because the federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance, both the drug and those who use it — even legally — are potentially subject to a number of harsh restrictions and punishments. In Ohio, for instance, employers are within their rights to fire someone who tests positive for marijuana, even if the use was off-duty and for a medical condition.

This might sound a bit dire, but it’s not all bad news. Across the country, attitudes toward marijuana use in general are changing. In this article, we’ll touch on state and workplace policies regarding medical cannabis.

Employers and Medical Marijuana

While the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) allows patients with one or more of
22 qualifying health conditions to receive cannabis-based treatments and therapies, the state board does not require that employers make accommodations or exceptions for any employees. Employers can therefore treat cannabis use however they see fit, and are within their rights to hire, demote, terminate, move, and award or deny tenure to employees who use medical marijuana.

Employers are not required to be punitive regarding the use of medical marijuana, however. (One significant exception stems from the Drug-Free Workplace Act, which stipulates that companies must operate and maintain drug-free places of employment in order to win contracts from the federal government.) If company policy allows employees to use medical cannabis during off-hours, then they are safe to do so. That said, as with any other drugs that can interfere with an employee’s ability to work or operate machinery, employers are likely to prohibit the use of medical cannabis during the work day or on company premises.

While it might seem like a
medical marijuana card would be enough to protect patients’ employment or hiring status, this often not the case. That said, in instances where someone in possession of or transporting medical cannabis is taken to court, having a valid card is what’s known as an “affirmative defense.” The card can be presented to the judge to prove that the patient is legally entitled to possess and transport medical cannabis.

Finally, while medical marijuana use is not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it’s likely that employees’ qualifying health conditions are. Employers should therefore make employment-related decisions based on preexisting company policies.

What Protections Do Medical Marijuana Patients Have?

The simple answer is, unfortunately, not many at the moment. However, one hopeful pattern emerging in 2020 is the increasing number of restrictions being placed on pre-employment cannabis testing.

Two significant examples include a Nevada law that went into effect in January that prevents
employers from considering a positive cannabis test in employment decisions, and a New York City law that prohibits pre-employment marijuana tests entirely (both include exceptions for positions that are safety-sensitive or regulated by federal programs). Even in states that do enable employers to deny employment based on positive drug testing, it’s becoming more common for employers to take additional measures before a job offer can be completely retracted.

If you have further questions regarding how state marijuana regulations could impact your employment,
contact Lakewood Medical Clinic today. Our offices are comfortable and inviting, and our team of cannabis-certified physicians and medical marijuana specialists is ready and able to assist with any concerns and questions you may have.