On June 8, 2016, Governor John Kasich signed into law House Bill 523 legalizing the use of marijuana in limited medical situations, making Ohio the 25th state to approve its use. The law becomes effective on September 9, 2016. While qualifying Ohioans will not be able to purchase medical marijuana in-state for at least a year or more, once the law takes effect, qualifying Ohioans will be able to purchase medical marijuana out-of-state for in-state use.
The law establishes a “seed-to-sale” system for growing, testing and dispensing marijuana for 20 medical conditions, including chronic pain. The Department of Commerce, Ohio Pharmacy Board and Ohio Medical Board will play roles in overseeing medical marijuana and writing rules for approval by a legislative panel. This law will have a sweeping and significant impact on individuals and businesses – employers and employees, real estate owners and landlords, financial institutions, businesses and business owners, healthcare providers, insurance providers, and potential investors, to name but a few. As Ohio follows the national trend and joins the growing number of states legalizing “medical marijuana,” numerous legal issues will arise, and Meyers Roman is well prepared to address those issues. Some of the questions we can help answer are as follows:
* Where can one use medical marijuana?
* How do I start a business in this industry? What special concerns should I be aware of?
* Do I need a license and/or special insurance to open a marijuana or marijuana-related business?
* Where can I operate a marijuana or marijuana-related business?
* How do I invest in this industry? Do federal and state securities laws still apply?
* Can I rent or sell my real estate to a marijuana or marijuana-related business?
* Do I need special insurance to rent to a marijuana or marijuana-related business?
* Can a landlord evict a marijuana or marijuana-related business?
* Can I grow medical marijuana on my real property?
* What are physicians able to do?
* What are the qualifying medical conditions?
* What limitations and powers will the Department of Commerce, Ohio Pharmacy Board and Ohio Medical Board now have?
* Can a financial institution finance a business in the marijuana industry or take marijuana or marijuana-related assets as collateral?
* Can a marijuana company file bankruptcy? What are the rights of a marijuana business’ creditors?
Critically for Ohio’s employers, the law provides necessary protections by enabling the maintenance of safe workplaces and enforcement of reasonable human resources policies. Specifically, the law offers the following protections for Ohio employers:
1. Employers may refuse to permit or accommodate an employee’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana;
2. Employers may refuse to hire, discharge, discipline, or otherwise take an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s use, possession, or distribution of medical marijuana;
3. Employers may establish and enforce a drug testing policy, drug-free workplace policy, or zero-tolerance drug policy;
(For any of the three foregoing items, employers must still comply with and be aware of potential claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Ohio’s parallel state employment-discrimination law related to legal off-duty use of a prescribed medication.)
4. It does not interfere with any federal restrictions on employment, including the regulations adopted by the United States Department of Transportation for drivers;
5. It prohibits a person from commencing a cause of action against an employer for refusing to hire or otherwise take an adverse employment action against a person with respect to tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment related to medical marijuana;
6. It does not impact rebates or discounts on workers’ compensation premium rates to employers that participate in a drug-free workplace program; and
7. It makes it clear that a person discharged from employment because of that person’s use of medical marijuana is ineligible for unemployment compensation.
It is imperative that your business reviews and updates its employee handbook and other workplace policies as soon as possible so that you can to take advantage of these employer protections when the law takes effect later this summer.
To learn more and discuss any questions you might have, contact David V. Croft at 216-831-0042, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For specific questions on your employee or employment policies, contact any of the attorneys in Meyers Roman’s Labor & Employment Group at the same phone number or via email – Seth Briskin (email@example.com), Jon Hyman (firstname.lastname@example.org), Steve Dlott (email@example.com), or Lester Armstrong (firstname.lastname@example.org).