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What Ohio employers need to know about medical marijuana use

It's legal for people to use "medical marijuana" in Ohio as long as they participate in the state medical marijuana program and have a valid prescription card. However, does that mean that employers can't terminate people or decline to hire them if they test positive for the drug?

In many professions, it doesn't matter that someone uses marijuana outside of work as long it doesn't negatively affect their performance or behavior at work. However, in other professions, it can be dangerous -- for the marijuana user and for others. One example is the construction industry.

This industry has included clauses in its labor agreements that require a drug-free environment. As the head of the Western Reserve Construction and Building Trades Council says, "You don't want anybody under the influence at a construction site."

The problem for people who use marijuana for pain, anxiety and a host of other issues is that the drug can remain in your system for nearly a month after you last used it. If they work for an employer that drug tests applicants, does random drug testing and/or tests them following workplace accidents, they could test positive even if they haven't been "under the influence" in weeks.

State law is on the side of employers when it comes to the right to discipline, fire or not hire someone who tests positive for marijuana. According to the union president, "The statute in Ohio is written in such a way that it doesn't protect employees in the workplace. Any protections would have to be negotiated in specific collective bargaining agreements."

Ohio law also prohibits employees from suing an employer for one of these actions. Further, an employee who's injured on the job may not be able to receive workers' compensation benefits if they test positive for marijuana. Whether or not they were under the influence at the time of the accident would be harder to determine than if they were drunk. However, testing positive would be enough to raise doubt about their condition at the time of the accident.

So far, no one has sued an Ohio employer for taking adverse action due to their use of medical marijuana. However, it's essential for employers to know their rights under the law and to make sure that their employees know the law as well.

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