Ohio’s legalized medical marijuana law (HB 523, signed in the fall of 2016) became operational this year. What are the facts, and what do they mean for those of us who live and work in Ohio?
Patients who suffer from one or more of the 21 qualifying medical conditions (such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder) are eligible to use medical marijuana, available in three forms: plant matter, edibles, and oils and tinctures.
There is no prescription for medical marijuana. Physicians who have taken a course from the Ohio State Medical Board and received a Certificate to Recommend may recommend its use for patients, including minors who have received consent from a parent or legal guardian. Because recommendations are not prescriptions, there are no dosage limits, leaving the dosage to patient choice. The law does limit possession amount to a 90-day supply, however.
Medical marijuana may only be purchased from a dispensary that has obtained a license from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Any purchaser must be properly registered with the state and possess an Ohio-issued patient or caregiver ID card. Patient and caregiver registrations are submitted by the recommending physician.
Vaping of plant matter is allowed, but smoking it is illegal. Edibles may include candy and brownies, but they cannot be appealing to children. Oils and tinctures may include patches, creams, oils for vaporization, and capsules. No form of medical marijuana may be used in public.
The law does not require employers to accommodate a job applicant’s or employee’s use, possession, distribution, being under the influence of, or testing positive for medical marijuana. So the big issue is...employers need to decide what their business approach is going to be. Do you want to maintain a zero-tolerance drug policy? Or, do you want to consider making an exception for specific off-the-job and off-premises use of medical marijuana? (Not every employer has a choice; for example, if a company is a federal contractor, it must maintain a drug-free workplace.)
If you know you want to keep your zero-tolerance policy, you still must review your current policy to make sure it includes the language experts are recommending, given Ohio’s new law. It’s also critical that you communicate your decision to your employees and verify that they understand it. We encourage you to meet with an expert or purchase available resources (such as employer toolkits) to help you take these important steps.
If you want to consider making an exception for medical marijuana, gaining an understanding of the various legal and practical issues involved is the key starting point. Make use of the educational toolkits, videos, or webinars that are being offered to Ohio employers. If your study period leads you to decide to make an exception, we recommend that you consult one-on-one with an expert who has legal and drafting experience in this area of the law. Together, you can develop your policy, and also decide what operational changes and communications will need to take place at the same time that the new policy goes into effect.
We’re here to equip our community members with the tools they need to have healthier families and healthier workplaces. To learn more about what we offer, visit our Resources page.