LIMA —Although Ohio House Bill 523 has authorized individuals to use marijuana for medical purposes, Working Partners Trainer and Ohio Certified Prevention Consultant Allison Sharer wants employers to know that they are not required by law to accommodate an employee’s medical use of the drug.
Over 50 employers in the Lima area attended the medical marijuana and drug-free workplace program Tuesday at the Howard Johnson hotel.
Ohio House Bill 523 was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich on Sept. 8, 2016. This law allows doctors to provide medical marijuana cards to patients 18 years or older who suffer with one or more of the 21 conditions on the medical marijuana control program list.
“If I am a patient with one of the 21 qualifying conditions, I have to have a bona fide relationship with my physician,” said Sharer. “It can’t be that I’m only seeing the doctor for just this recommendation.”
The medical card serves as a recommendation for the patient to receive medical marijuana from Ohio dispensaries starting Sept. 8. A dispensary for this region will be located in Auglaize County.
Despite the fact that HB 523 authorizes the use of marijuana medical purposes, the Federal Controlled Substance Act deems marijuana an illegal drug. Because it is still considered an illegal drug on a federal level, organizations such as the Workers Compensation Bureau will not reimburse employees for medical marijuana.
Also, medical marijuana is listed under rebuttable presumption, meaning that if it is determined that a work-related injury was due to being intoxicated, that worker may not not be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Sharer suggests employers consider positions and the safety-sensitive functions, like operating a vehicle, and security functions that could be affected by intoxication.
If an employer decides to accommodate employees who use medical marijuana, they should consider the replications of an employee who tests positive for a drug test, how to identify legitimate medical marijuana cards and if they are will to switch the role or position of the employee, if needed. Sharer also wants employers to consider the current workforce and determine if the decision to create a drug-free work workplace will affect the company from filling vacant positions because of positive drug tests.
Before making a policy change, Sharer strongly recommends that employers consult their lawyers, as they are more knowledgeable about HB 523.
“You’re going to be the expert, and your attorney is the expert in the law,” said Sharer. “In some ways, you are going to be educating your attorney about your unique issues regarding these issues.”
If a policy has been changed, employers should also be prepared to defend their policy, notify their employees of the policy changes prior to September and train the supervisors, according to Sharer.
For more information employers can visit medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov.
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews.