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Updates for Employers Regarding Medical Marijuana

In 2020, the momentum for marijuana legalization and decriminalization continued. In the November elections, five more states legalized either medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, or both. Although marijuana remains illegal in any form under federal law, just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to decriminalize marijuana usage at the federal level. It's unlikely that the Senate will approve of that, but it is another milestone in what has been a rapidly shifting landscape over the last decade. Given the patchwork of state laws regarding medical and recreational marijuana, widely varied approaches for workplace protections, and the total federal ban, it can be difficult for employers to know how to deal with this issue.

Does a company need to accommodate an employee's medical marijuana use?

Well, it depends (sorry, did I mention I'm a lawyer?). In many states where medical marijuana is legal, including Ohio, there is no obligation on the part of the employer to accommodate an employee's use of medical marijuana. In those states, employers may fire or refuse to hire an employee who tests positive for marijuana, even if that employee is lawfully using marijuana pursuant to the state's laws. However, in some states, medical marijuana laws include protections for employees who use medical marijuana. For example, in Connecticut, federal courts have held that, aside from certain limited exceptions, an employer may not fire or refuse to hire an employee based on marijuana use if the employee is only engaging in lawful, off-duty use of medical marijuana. Note that even in states where employee protections are provided, employers still as a general rule may take action if an employee is using or actively under the influence of medical marijuana during working hours and/or in the workplace. Particularly for employers operating in multiple states, it is important to seek expert advice and engage in careful analysis of company drug policies and procedures as the maze of laws regarding medical marijuana continue to evolve.

May a company make exceptions to its drug free workplace policy for medical marijuana use that is lawful under state law?

Yes, but there are important factors to consider in doing so. As medical marijuana becomes more common and accepted in the U.S., some employers are seeking to relax their drug policies to accommodate employees using the substance lawfully under state law. This is generally permissible, but such a policy change may come with unintended consequences that should be assessed. Employers should consider whether this may affect their participation in state workers' compensation discount programs tied to drug-free workplace requirements. Companies should also consider whether certain positions are particularly safety-sensitive and may pose a concern in connection with such a policy change. Further, if a company receives federal funding, they may be precluded from this approach by the Federal Drug Free Workplace Act. Again, employers should seek out expert advice and careful analysis of the potential consequences of policy change in this evolving area.

As marijuana laws change, the laws and policies will also continue to develop. Please call or email Russell T. Rendall at (216) 658-2205 or rtrendall@bmdllc.com with any questions, or reach out to your BMD Cannabis Law Attorney to learn more about employee medical marijuana use and drug free workplace policies.

Provider Relief Funds – Continued Confusion Regarding Reporting Requirements and Lost Revenues

In Fall 2020, HHS issued multiple rounds of guidance and FAQs regarding the reporting requirements for the Provider Relief Funds, the most recently published notice being November 2, 2020 and December 11, 2020. Specifically, the reporting portal for the use of the funds in 2020 was scheduled to open on January 15, 2021. Although there was much speculation as to whether this would occur. And, as of the date of this article, the portal was not opened.

Ohio S.B. 310 Loosens Practice Barrier for Advanced Practice Providers

S.B. 310, signed by Ohio Governor DeWine and effective from December 29, 2020 until May 1, 2021, provides flexibility regarding the regulatorily mandated supervision and collaboration agreements for physician assistants, certified nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse practitioners working in a hospital or other health care facility. Originally drafted as a bill to distribute federal COVID funding to local subdivisions, the healthcare related provisions were added to help relieve some of the stresses hospitals and other healthcare facilities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HHS Issues Opinion Regarding Illegal Attempts by Drug Manufacturers to Deny 340B Discounts under Contract Pharmacy Arrangements

The federal 340B discount drug program is a safety net for many federally qualified health centers, disproportionate share hospitals, and other covered entities. This program allows these providers to obtain discount pricing on drugs which in turn allows the providers to better serve their patient populations and provide their patients with access to vital health care services. Over the years, the 340B program has undergone intense scrutiny, particularly by drug manufacturers who are required by federal law to provide the discounted pricing.

S.B. 263 Protects 340B Covered Entities from Predatory Practices in Ohio

Just before the end of calendar year 2020 and at the end of its two-year legislative session, the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 263, which prohibits insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) from imposing on 340B Covered Entities discriminatory pricing and other contract terms. This is a win for safety net providers and the people they serve, as 340B savings are crucial to their ability to provide high quality, affordable programs and services to patients.

DOL Finalizes New Rule Regarding Independent Contractor Status, But Its Future Is In Jeopardy

On January 6, 2021, the Department of Labor announced its final rule regarding independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. As described in a prior BMD client alert, this new rule was fast-tracked by the Trump administration after its proposal in September 2020. The new rule is set to take effect on March 8, 2021, and contains several key developments related to the "economic reality" test used to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee under the FLSA.