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Updates for Employers Regarding Medical Marijuana

Client Alert

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.


“In for a Penny, in for a Pound” is No Longer the Case for Florida Lawyers

On April 1, 2024, newly adopted Rule 1.041 to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedures goes into effect which creates a procedure for an attorney to appear in a limited manner in civil proceedings.  Currently, when a Florida attorney appears in a civil proceeding, he or she is reasonable for handling all aspects of the case for their client.  This new rule authorizes an attorney to file a notice limiting the attorney’s appearance to particular proceedings or specified matters prior to any appearance before the court.  For example, an attorney can now appear for the limited purpose of filing and arguing a motion to dismiss.  Once the motion to dismiss is heard by the court, the attorney may file a notice of termination of limited appearance and will have no further obligations in the case.

Enhancing Privacy Protections for Substance Use Disorder Patient Records

On February 8, 2024, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) finalized updated rules to 42 CFR Part 2 (“Part 2”) for the protection of Substance Use Disorder (“SUD”) patient records. The updated rules reflect the requirement that the Part 2 rules be more closely aligned with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) privacy, breach notification, and enforcement rules as mandated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020.

Columbus, Ohio Ordinance Prohibits Employers from Inquiries into an Applicant’s Salary History

Effective March 1, 2024, Columbus employers are prohibited from inquiring into an applicant’s salary history. Specifically, the ordinance provides that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice to:

The Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board’s Latest Batch of Rules: What Providers Should Know

The Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board has introduced new rules and amendments, covering various aspects such as CDCA certificate requirements, expanded services for LCDCs and CDCAs, remote supervision, and reciprocity application requirements. Notable changes include revised criteria for obtaining a CDCA certification, expanded services for LCDCs and CDCAs, and updated ethical obligations for licensees and certificate holders, including non-discrimination, confidentiality, and anti-sexual harassment measures.

Governor Mike DeWine and The Ohio State University Introduce the SOAR Study on Ohio Mental Illness

On January 19, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and The Ohio State University announced a new research initiative, the State of Ohio Adversity and Resilience (“SOAR”) study, which will investigate all factors influencing Ohio’s mental illness and addiction epidemic.