The forthcoming legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio will not abridge the right of local employers to fire workers for consuming legally-prescribed cannabis.
The bill legalizing medical use of marijuana is now waiting for Gov. John Kasich's signature. But Ohio is an at-will state, and the bill allows to fire employed weed users if employers keep to drug-free policies. This means that even if the document is approved, your boss could dismiss or not hire you for using this natural remedy.
The main reason for this is that marijuana is still considered as a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S. Though there are adopted regulations that protect people who use legally-prescribed drugs, medical cannabis does not fall under the purview of these laws. There are nearly eighty percent of employers in Ohio that have a policy of drug-free workplaces, and they will not be required to change it if the House Bill 523 is implemented.
Many marijuana advocates in Ohio argue that this provision of the bill is in direct conflict with employee's rights and could cause discrimination at work. In contrast, the Ohio employers are concerned about workplace safety if their workers perform their duties under the influence of cannabis.
On the one hand, weed advocates claim that it is illogical to prohibit cannabis consumption when the laws allow working while taking opiates or other potentially dangerous drugs if they are prescribed by licensed physicians. But on the other hand, local employers argue that the medical use of marijuana should be regulated when the work requires high physical coordination from employees like farming or industrial works. Moreover, there is a potential for workplace incidents, financial losses, and consequent litigation between employers and employees, if cannabis consumption at work is allowed.
Phil Parker, chair of the Ohio Metro Chambers of Commerce, is sure that cannabis legalization will also reveal dangers in the workplace caused by prescription drugs in general, because other painkillers like opiates can also slow people's reactions and affect their decision making. The fast expansion of drugs should have attracted our attention a decade ago, as now it has already led to negative consequences for patients using these drugs.
Marijuana advocates also think that the legalization would not help patients if they will lose their jobs because of their treatment. In addition, the drug tests at work would not be objective, as cannabis can stay in your system for weeks or even months after you consume it. Thus, the test results do not show that an individual is still under the influence of marijuana.
However, some of them, like Rob Ryan, president of Ohio Patients Now, are in favor of employer's right to forbid cannabis use. However, Ryan thinks that many employers do not like the idea of drug testing, and would drop it soon after cannabis legalization.
Nonetheless, Ohioans could not consume marijuana during the off-work time, as the employees fired for violating the drug policy will not be able to sue their employer or just qualify for compensation or unemployment benefits. Thus, the employees should carefully check their decision to take medical cannabis with their employers in order to avoid confusion in the workplace.