Ohio's medical marijuana program has hit a snag. Because of a delay in issuing certificates to grow centers and processors, product will not be available to patients on the required roll out date of September 8th. The state has also delayed implementing the patient portal for registration until closer to the time when product will be ready. To date, almost 200 doctors have been certified to recommend medical marijuana.
What employers need to know
While the program has hit a delay, we've experienced an increase in calls from employers who have encountered a situation involving medical marijuana use by an employee. The law does provide an "affirmative defense", allowing patients found to be in possession to make the argument that they meet the conditions of the law before the law goes into effect. Some have an "Affirmative Defense" letter issued by their doctor as proof of compliance.
Employers should prepare now.
Under the new law, employers are under no obligation to permit use by employees or allow possession of medical marijuana at the worksite. Employers don't have to (and should never) allow an employee who is impaired to continue to work. Drug Free Workplace programs (Including the Drug Free Safety Program) are not affected and those who have zero tolerance policies for a testing positive can continue this discipline policy. And, while an employer can decide whether their own organization will completely ban use or accommodate use for employees, the law is clear that there must be a written policy and it must be communicated to employees prior to enforcement. Without it, employers won't have a leg to stand on. Whether your company is thinking about banning the use altogether or accommodating use for employees, we strongly recommend that all organizations make developing a medical marijuana policy an immediate priority before a situation occurs.
If you have not yet attended our webinar "Medical Marijuana in the Workplace" (free of charge), we will be presenting it again on August 23 (Register Here) . For our current training clients, assistance in updating your policy is covered under your support services and always free of charge to you. For other employers, contact our offices - we can help you too!
First Connect is excited to announce that we have chosen ease@work, an Ohio-based Regional EAP, as our recommended Employee Assistance provider. For employers with a drug free program, having a pre-established relationship streamlines the referral process when an employee is positive on a drug test. Employers in the advanced level of the Ohio BWC Drug Free program, are required to have a pre-established working relationship with an employee assistance professional to which an employee with a substance problem can be referred. Based on ease@work’s 37+ years of experience in the EAP industry, we are pleased to be able to offer, not only their expertise in the field of substance abuse, but their full complement of programs in the areas of counseling, worklife, wellness, and Organizational Development consulting to our valued customers.
Ease@work is a full service employee assistance program that can support the needs of both employees and the organization. They offer a full complement of services that follow strict guidelines to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the employees who voluntarily request the services offered.
Ease@work offers the following services to address any home or work related issues that are preventing employees from being productive, focused and safe on the job.
Core employee services include:
As a leading provider of drug free workplace programs in Ohio, First Connect is excited to be able to have a provider that will work with our clients to better manage not only substance abuse issues that arise in the workplace but other workplace concerns, as well.
Ease@work is offering free consultations for First Connect clients. To learn more, contact Patrick Gaul at 216-325-9375. Be sure to mention that you're a First Connect Corporate Services client!
Update May 30: This week, Ohio's General Assembly passed HB523 moving the bill to Governor John Kasich's desk for approval. While Governor Kasich's office remains non committal as to whether the governor will sign it, polling numbers have indicated that over 90% of Ohioans favor medical use legalization. In other news, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, a group backed by the national group Marijuana Policy Project, has suspended their signature initiative for the November ballot, citing HB523's positive movement through the General Assembly. We will continue to update you as we receive more news.
Original Post: On May 10th, the Ohio House passed HB523 which would allow people with certain medical conditions to buy and use marijuana, with the approval of an Ohio licensed physician. This week, the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee made changes that would allow increased patient participation and speed up what lawmakers originally estimated as a two year time line for establishing the program.
Under the bill passed by the House, HB523 would allow employers the right to ban any medical use of marijuana in the workplace and terminate the employment of those that used, even with the approval of a physician. But the Government Oversight and Reform Committee made a change to the employer protection provision. Under the changes, employers would have to prove employees violated a workplace anti-drug policy for the employees to lose unemployment or workers' compensation benefits and employees could appeal similar to other controlled substances.
If HB523 is the first attempt at legislation since the overwhelming defeat of Responsible Ohio's attempt to pass a constitutional amendment initiative that would have made legal recreational and medical marijuana in November.
In other legalization news, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, backed by the national group Marijuana Policy Project, is continuing to collect the necessary 305,591 signatures needed to place the initiative on the November ballot. The group is well organized but it is unclear, at this writing, if they will meet the July deadline for valid signatures needed.
In the event the General Assembly passes HB523 and the constitutional amendment passes in November, the constitutional amendment would supersede HB523.
Stay tuned. We'll keep you up to date.