(Summer 2017) When Ohio’s law to legalize medical marijuana was signed by Governor Kasich last June, it officially went into effect 90 days later. However, those wishing to visit their doctors for “permission” to use the drug are out of luck as the law, according to the established Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), only offers a basic framework for how marijuana is to be grown, tested, processed, recommended and sold to card-carrying residents. According to the law (Ohio H.B. 523), all these details must be up and running no later than September 8, 2018.
State agencies charged with ironing out the details include the Department of Commerce and Ohio’s State Medical and Pharmacy Boards, and oversight to their work is being provided by the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee. Members of the 14-member committee include two individuals representing the workplace — Michael E. Stanek, Chief Financial Officer & Vice President at Hunt Imaging LLC (representing employers) and Jason Kaseman, Political Director for United Food and Commercial Workers (representing labor). They are joined by members representing various groups and interests including pharmacists, patients, caregivers, nurses, physicians, academic research and persons involved in the treatment of alcohol/drug addiction and mental health issues.
The group’s first meeting was in November 2016, and they have continued to meet monthly to review rules drafted by the respective state agencies. Revised drafts are then posted on the MMCP’s website for 14 days for public comment, and those comments are closely monitored by the Department of Commerce.
Marcie Siedel, executive director of Prevention Action Alliance (formally known as Drug Free Action Alliance), sits on the committee and reports the work of the group, to date, is meeting their aggressive timeline. “I will give my hats off to the Department of Commerce, the pharmacy board and the medical board. They’ve all done a good job of researching and trying to do the best they can in this difficult environment … They have done a good job doing their due diligence to make it flow as well and to keep it as tight as they can.”
How much time has the advisory committee spent discussing the law’s impact on the workplace? “So far, not a lot,” said Siedel, but she anticipates the discussions are forthcoming. “After all,” she reflected, “most of the people who will get the marijuana for medical reasons are in the workplace.”
The law does outline specific protections for employers who may interview or employ someone wishing to get medical permission to use marijuana as medicine – protections about which job seekers and employees need to be aware. Among the employer protections outlined in the law
- Employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s use, possession or distribution of
- Employers can refuse to hire and may discharge, discipline and take adverse action against an employee who uses, possesses or distributes medical marijuana.
- A person is not permitted to sue an employer for taking an adverse employment action related to medical marijuana.
- A person who is discharged from employment for using medical marijuana will be considered to have been discharged for just cause if the person’s use was 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.
- Employers can establish and enforce drug testing, drug-free workplace and zero-tolerance policies.
Now more than ever, Working Partners® encourages their clients and all employers to have clear rules about marijuana in their drug-free workplace (DFWP) programs and to assure employees are educated about these rules and the law. Supervisors should also be trained in how they should relate to the law, especially in the event that an employee unknowingly shares their intent to seek permission from a medical profession to use the drug.
Seidel concurs. “It’s moving … it’s progressing …,” she shared. “It will be here before we know it. And if they [businesses] haven’t taken a clear examination of what they want in their organization, boy, they better do it quickly.”
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