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Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

June 15, 2016


Ohio recently became the 25th state to legalize Medical Marijuana.  This brings to the forefront many issues in the workplace.  Employers are obligated to provide a safe environment.  If an employee is using medical marijuana for a medical condition are they violating workplace safety laws and no tolerance policies?

These questions are not easily answered as there is no clear medical marijuana use protection under federal law. The only protection, if any, arises under state laws legalizing marijuana.  States that have legalized medical marijuana don’t require employers to permit drug use in the workplace or tolerate employees who report to work under the influence.  “When employees walk on to the job, they become an employer’s responsibility,” according to Ingrid Fredeen, J.D., vice president of advisory services at NAVEX Global. “Use that impacts an employee’s ability to do their job, quickly and legitimately becomes a concern for the employer” she said.

Fredeen pointed out that alcohol use is legal, but companies have a right to prohibit employees from working under the influence of this substance. So, therefore, employers certainly may institute drug-free-workplace policies, which, she noted, “are in place to help ensure that employees come to work ready and able to work and that they don’t endanger others while they are working.”

But beyond that, the issues become more complex, and sometimes more difficult to resolve.  Until there is national consensus on medical marijuana usage what should a company do to ensure both compliance with state and federal laws and protection of workplace safety? Timothy P. Van Dyck and Nathanael Nichols, attorneys at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP in Boston, suggest the following:

*Review your state’s laws on discrimination against marijuana users. Make sure your policies are consistent with state anti-discrimination statutes.

*Continue to comply with federal regulations.

*Review your drug-use and drug-testing policies to ensure that they clearly explain your expectations regarding impairment, marijuana use outside of company time and drug testing.

*Make sure you are prepared to consistently follow your stated procedures.

*As part of your review, articulate whether you wish to ban all employee drug use or merely impairment.

For more information or questions regarding medical marijuana in the workplace, contact Saponaro, Inc. today.

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